Green Day have run out of fucks to give. The cover photo of the pop-punks’ new album, Saviors – depicting a young man smiling and shrugging as a car burns, amid the Northern Irish riots of 1969 – matches the songs’ attitude. The world’s unjust and, as important as it is to pay attention to that, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
Opener ‘The American Dream Is Killing Me’ lays the manifesto of this 14th full-length, both musically and ideologically. It’s a welcome jaunt back to the punkish hit-writing that made the East Bayers idols of their generation.
The garage rock of 2020’s unforgivably shit Father of All Motherfuckers has been condemned to redundancy with a swift return to form, although the happy-go-lucky chords and toe-tapping drums belie a nihilistic worldview.
“From sea to shining sea, whitewashed upon the beach, my country under siege, on private property – we are not home,” frontman Billie Joe Armstrong happily howls, his tone undeterred by the bleakness of his own words. Despite outward appearances and the obvious political observations, it’s quickly clear that this is not an activist record.
It’s a smart move from the band. Whereas a drive for change motivated the conceptual bible that was 2004’s American Idiot, Green Day’s desire to again bottle that lightning during the less incendiary Obama regime resulted in the lacklustre 21st Century Breakdown and Revolution Radio. The disappointing duology screamed for grand overthrow, yet stayed just vague enough as to what should be overthrown that it diluted their impact.
Instead, Saviors says there’s no cry for an uprising because there’s no hope to rebel for anymore, as punctuated by the scurrying Coma City: “Don’t call the cops – word on the street is they all quit their jobs,” Armstrong cries, later adding, “Mask on your face. Bankrupt the planet for assholes in space.”
Police brutality, the horrors and hypocrisy of the pandemic, and billionaires slipping the surly bonds of a planet where kids are starving have sucked Green Day’s revolutionary spirit. Why do you think the title of Saviors comes with quotation marks attached on the front cover? This shit’s beyond saving.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t dance our woes away.
Saviors is brimming with verve despite its clear-cut hopelessness. ‘Look Ma, No Brains!’ is two minutes of infectious self-flagellation, the lyric “I don’t know how to read” undercut by Green Day’s ongoing literacy in penning no-frills bangers.
‘Corvette Summer’ accompanies the jock-rock implications of its title with some swaggering hard rock chords, fresh from the playbook of AC/DC yet still exuding dick-swinging badassery 40-plus years on. Even ‘Father to a Son’, for the solemnity of its acoustic and symphonic tones, is a warming experience. Its promises of parental guidance and protection feel reassuring, given the outside world is so ruinous.
Green Day know that there’s no salvation, yet they source comfort in the little things. Dancing, singing and caring are more powerful weapons against the cruelty of everything than a million nuclear warheads. Welcome to the party at the end of the world.
Photo credit: Press