Green Day has gone through many different phases and transformations throughout their illustrious career, but there is one facet of their music that has stayed the same: irresistible melodic lines. It’s been a while since Green Day put out anything of importance, and Revolution Radio was just the album they needed to show everyone that they are still full of melodic brilliance. They have written the best melodies of any punk band of all time, and this album only solidifies that. Time after time, Billie Joe Armstrong crafts the most wonderful and impressive melodic lines over a rather plain musical structure. He finds exuberance, energy, and magnificence from practically nothing, which separates this group from the rest of the pop-punk bands of their era. This album picked up where the band effectively left off in the late 2000’s and delivered melodies that can last more than a lifetime. The album’s title track “Revolution Radio” is among one of the best rock tunes ever written. It has everything you want in a melody: sequence, repetition, understandable shape, nice peaks, easily remembered, and playfulness. Overall, a lot of these tracks are simply fun to hear. Melody is also where Green Day uses the most variety. I’ll foreshadow that variety does come few and far between in this album, but melodically it is quite diverse. Sometimes the melody is very diatonic while working complimentary to the other musical elements, as in “Say Goodbye” and “Ordinary World”. Other times the melody starts from nothing and gives the ear delight on its shape alone, as in “Bouncing Off the Wall” and “Youngblood”. Not everything was on the same level of melodic genius of “Revolution Road” and “Forever Now”, which served as flashes of what the Green Day of old had accomplished. There’s no question, though, that this album can be regarded as a melodic masterpiece. It served as a testament to how melodic intrigue can be created through such simple parameters. No musicians have done it better than Green Day over the past 20 years, and they don’t show sings of slowing down in Revolution Radio.
Overshadowed by the incredible melodic lines is the platform that got them there. There didn’t need to be much, but there needed to be enough nuance and surprise in the harmony to sound interesting while still serving as a foundation that the music can thrive on. Most of the time, this balance is found wonderfully. It’s easy to settle on three chords, or even two chords, and just jam on them to call that a song. That can work, but Green Day rarely ever found that to be sufficient. The harmonic rhythm is very sophisticated and unique throughout most of Revolution Radio, especially in “Bang Bang”, “Too Dumb To Die”, and “Forever Now”. A great example of how two chords can be wonderfully creative is in the chorus to “Bouncing Off the Wall”. The rhythm and placement of the I and IV chords created a beautifully simple background while allowing the melody to run wild and shape the song. The two songs that didn’t quite have that creative harmonic jolt were “Outlaws” and “Still Breathing”. Both had overused harmonic progressions that weren’t nuanced by any cool rhythm or sudden chromatic shifts. They did their job, but the other songs had creative harmonies that worked on another level. Since the effect of the music was meant to be simple and straight-forward (which it was), the harmonies could have been much, much worse. Green Day never truly their guard down, though, and they always worked to find creative ways to harmonically enhance their music.
Essentially, this album had one dynamic: loud. Even in the few soft spots, it got to the point where a build to louder, more dominant section was expected. This is comparatively speaking, of course; it hardly matches the loudness of certain musical genres that define themselves solely on being loud. While it’s one dynamic is the most identifiable feature of the timbre on this album, it is far from a bad thing. It would’ve been bad had it been excessive banging and thrashing without an end in sight. However, this album showed finesse within the overwhelming textures. Tré Cool is such a magnificent drummer, and it shows on this album.. He keeps everything under control while still adding incredible flair and energy to the sound. I especially enjoyed his contributions in “Bang Bang”, “Revolution Radio”, and “Youngblood”. Armstrong certainly did his fair share of simply banging out power chords on guitar, which gave the sound a sense of power without complexity that I appreciated. That particular technique could always have more refinement, though. His acoustic playing in “Somewhere Now” and “Ordinary World” to bookend the album was exceptional. The only downfall to the “one dynamic” approach is the lack of variety in the sound. Like I said earlier, Revolution Radio is not a very musically diverse album, and Green Day seemed to settle on one sound that never quite changed fast enough. By the time I listened to “Troubled Times”, the formula was obvious and the power-driven sound got to be a little too much. Luckily, the last two songs on the album “Forever Now” and “Ordinary World” took a turn from that road and added much more textural differences. Even if the overall sounds were quite similar, they were always interesting within the context of the song. The short pauses, the guitar effects, the amazing backup vocals, and the solo interludes all came together to create a truly satisfying timbre. They’re could have been more effective dynamic variation, but they carried out their decisions well and delivered an album that is truly fun to listen to.
Green Day is truly back, and this album contains some of their best work. Not only that, but its thematic content it set perfectly for today’s listeners and will undoubtedly gain attention with all of the feelings of revolution present in the air today. The bottom line is that this is one of the most influential bands of all time and this album couldn’t have been timed any better. An already incredible reputation paired with perfect timing equals heavy influence. I would still consider their 2004 album American Idiot to be the greatest album made post-2000, and while there were a few too many dips in musical quality to be compared to it, Revolution Radio is still incredibly worthwhile. I know I’ll be listening to it for a long time.
Final Score: 155/180