Sound — 7
Ever since hitting a second wind in their career in 2004 with the glowing success of "American Idiot," Green Day have prided themselves as not just one of the most popular punk acts in the world, but one of the more elaborate ones regarding their recent penchant for conceptual compositions. But though "American Idiot" would continue to grow in popularity when it became adapted into a Broadway musical, the following concept albums Green Day put out showed a decline. The similarly-minded punk opera "21st Century Breakdown" cruised on its familiarity to its predecessor (also boasting the touch of producer Butch Vig), but 2012's trilogy series of "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tré!" was a bloated bore. Billie Joe Armstrong may have described the three-album offering as an inspired surge of songwriting akin to the prolific likes of Ty Segall or Car Seat Headrest, but felt more like a pile of buffet-value Green Day music - abundant but sub-par.
In their twelfth album, "Revolution Radio," Green Day recalibrate back to the familiar and successful formula first struck in "American Idiot," though their numerous goals set in the album don't all succeed. First and foremost, they bring back some better punk energy that was lacking in the middling saturation of the 2012 trilogy album series, heard in the straightforward energy of "Bang Bang" the Bad Religion-esque opening riff of the eponymous song, and the tremolo guitar solo in "Too Dumb to Die," but this also contains some dead weight, like the boring punk cuts of "Still Breathing" and "Troubled Time."
Beyond regaining a better grip on their punk sound, Green Day lace more sonic flavors in the album, similarly to the variance of "American Idiot," although this ends up being the weaker aspect of "Revolution Radio." While the country folk flavor that bookends the album in the opening "Somewhere Now" and the closing acoustic ballad of "Ordinary World" is the most substantial, other moments come off weak, like the slogging garage rocker "Say Goodbye," the meandering ballad "Outlaws," and the alt-rocker "Bouncing Off the Wall" sounding like a rip-off of The Vines. And with the penultimate "Forever Now" working in a multi-act structure similar to "Jesus of Suburbia" but meagerly reprising the intro song at its end, "Revolution Radio" fails to hit the same ambitious songwriting levels reached in "American Idiot," though the modulation thrown in the end of "Youngblood" is a short and sweet reminder that Armstrong still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Lyrics — 5
Though not sculpted as a fully-fledged rock opera story, Armstrong's lyrics in "Revolution Radio" pose similarly to "American Idiot" and "21st Century Breakdown" in its subject matter. But past "Bang Bang" addressing the phenomenon of shooter culture in America (being the most specific and poignant bout of lyrics on the album), Armstrong doesn't seize any other fresh spectacles or topics, and falls back into well-worn territory. Along with moments coming off as retreads of previous lyrics - like the punk rock love song of "Youngblood" feeling similar to the "American Idiot" song "She's a Rebel," or the dissentious souls raising hell in the suburbs in "Outlaws" that generally rehashes the narratives in Armstrong's rock opera stories - Armstrong's social critique come in bland one-liners ("All we want is weed and guns" in "Somewhere Now"; "What good is love and peace on Earth if it's exclusive?" in "Troubled Times") and counter-cultural statements that are cringe-inducing in their attempted edginess ("Give me cherry bombs and gasoline" in the eponymous song; "Smoking dope and mowing lawns / And I hated all the new trends" in "Too Dumb to Die").
Overall Impression — 6
Given the recent span of Green Day's catalog, where the quantity-over-quality output of "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tré!" nearly eclipsed the streak of ambitiously operatic punk albums that had reinvigorated the band's career, "Revolution Radio" has a lot of give and take to it. Though its overall songwriting feels less cohesive and its lyrical output feels less compelling compared to "American Idiot" and "21st Century Breakdown," the album does indeed show more focus than the sprawled-out 2012 album trilogy series, and its effort of recalibrating the band's punk style is a necessary step back in the right direction.