With ‘Dookie’ and ‘American Idiot’ both celebrating milestone birthdays this year, Green Day manage to find a rough thematic middle ground between their two biggest records ever on their impressive 14th album, ‘Saviors.’
Stream: ‘Saviors’ – Green Day
Twenty years have gone so fast, indeed. Two decades after Green Day reached what remains its commercial and cultural pinnacle with American Idiot, their fourteenth studio album, Saviors, demonstrates that there is life in them yet as a veteran rock group – and one that still has plenty of bones to pick with their home country.
“The American Dream is killing me,” the now 51-year-old Billie Joe Armstrong – and who’s impressively been the lead singer of this band for over two-thirds of those years – sings on the opening track. It’s long been established that he “don’t wanna be an American idiot,” but now he goes further – “Don’t want no huddled masses, TikTok and taxes, under the overpass, sleeping in broken glass.”
Whereas the Green Day of the early 2000s decried a United States plagued by war and mass media indoctrination, the 2020s iteration of the band is ready to elaborate on the issues plaguing their nation – especially their home state of California, long the focal point of this supposed American Dream, but which has lately been subject to the sort of horrid rates of homelessness and urban decay that the lyrics to this song decry.
Green Day keep the social commentary coming strong.
“Living in the ‘20s,” for instance, notes how this decade has been roaring for all of the wrong reasons so far. “Another shooting in a supermarket,” Armstrong decries an all-too-common trend of late. “I drink my media and turn it into vomit… Ain’t that a kick in the head?” In similar style, “Strange Days Are Here to Stay” notes how the bleak apocalyptic landscape that the band has portrayed on record multiple times before has become all too much of a current reality. “Are we in hell, or is this just a fantasy?” Armstrong asks. “I can’t see this ending well now that it’s too late… These are the loneliest of times.”
In addition to lamenting the world around them, Green Day identify some of their personal problems. Armstrong’s struggles with alcoholism have served as lyrical fodder already – 2016’s “Still Breathing,” for instance, detailed the triumphant feeling of finally conquering that monster. On “Dilemma,” conversely, he’s more upfront about the immense pain that this addiction caused him while he was still in its clutches. “Welcome to my nightmare, where dreams go to disappear,” he sings, recalling the days where he could do little more than “sit around in rehab feeling like a lab rat.” Although he previously insisted that he wanted to keep interviews regarding his alcoholism to a minimum, it appears he has no trouble elaborating on his past condition in the studio – Saviors gains some important thematic depth as a result.
Knowing Green Day, there was little chance that they would keep things dead serious for an entire album.
Plus, in addition to American Idiot turning 20, their second-biggest-hit album ever, 1994’s Dookie, is celebrating its 30th anniversary as well. Saviors tips it cap to that landmark record in numerous regards, in no small part by bringing back producer Rob Cavallo, who had helped Green Day craft their major label debut and many of its sequels, yet hitherto had not collaborated with the group in over a decade.
Furthermore, on multiple occasions, the band takes a break from serious commentary and resorts to two-to-three-minute bursts of punk-rock energy that Dookie and other of their early albums exhibit freely. Channeling the youthful energy of his young adult years in such a manner is probably the only way a man who’s been steadily married for 30 years could manage to sing such lyrics as, “Do you wanna be my girlfriend? I’ll take you to a movie that we’ve already seen or sit at home and watch reruns – there’s no other place I wanna be” (this being the opening passage of “Bobby Sox”).
There’s plenty more where that all came from, rest assured.
As its title suggests, “Look Ma, No Brains!” celebrates the self-consciously idiotic lifestyle, with humorously self-deprecating lines like “I’m a knucklehead” and “I’m with stupid and I’m all by myself” bouncing about untamed. Plus “Corvette Summer” conjures thoughts of Dookie fan favorite “When I Come Around” as Armstrong hollers like a younger version of himself, “Get around, I can get around, drop a bomb on my rock ‘n’ roll.” These guys sure know how to have a good time in the studio, when all is said and done.
After 35 minutes of shifting around in tone and theme, Green Day ultimately end on a more optimistic note in the final few tracks. “Father to a Son” finds Armstrong passing meaningful life advice to his own two boys– he has described this song as a sequel of sorts to 2004’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” an son’s ode to his late father; the role reversal two decades later is emotionally stirring indeed. Finally, the title track expresses hope that somebody will come around and save the world from the dire state that it’s descended into– or maybe, just maybe, that we’ll all step up to the task and do it ourselves?
Green Day are set to promote Saviors on a massive tour this summer, during which time they’ll also perform both Dookie and American Idiot in their entirety at every stop.
In a sense, that’s a metaphor for what they’ve achieved on the album itself– honoring their two most iconic records, both lyrically and sonically, while also crafting a product that can stand its own ground in the current age.
Who knows, perhaps the 2020s will be able to just barely duck being such a hellish landscape after all, so long as Green Day can keep putting out quality records like this one.
Stream: “Coma City” – Green Day
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an album by Green Day