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Spins: Green Day • Saviors

| February 12, 2024

Green Day



Thirty years after sending punk to the top of the charts with breakthrough album Dookie, erstwhile upstarts Green Day return as power-pop elder statesmen with Saviors. With the band’s familiar friend and producer Rob Cavallo back at the helm for the first time in a decade, Saviors’ 15 tracks find frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool fighting fit and keen to cement a legacy beyond age 50 by crafting an album that measures up to snotty-yet-smart benchmarks including 2004’s punk-rock opera American Idiot. The album may not quite attain that lofty standard, but Saviors is short of neither fire nor attitude. It defiantly raises the bar after the subdued reception for 2020’s Father of All…. With a galloping swing, “The American Dream is Killing Me” includes audible callbacks to the indelible 1994 single “Basket Case.” The song makes an overt thematic connection to political anthems like George W. Bush’s broadside “American Idiot,” complaining that the American Dream excludes certain members of society. The song shares a riff with ska-punk band The Interrupters’ “Broken World,” which was co-written with Armstrong. “Look Ma, No Brains” follows with a sharp blast of self-deprecation. “I’m with stupid, and I’m all by myself,” quips Armstrong. Mike Dirnt’s bass rumbles through “Bobby Sox.”

Armstrong couches gender-neutral romance within a skyfaring chorus stacked against a whisper-scream counterpart a la Linkin Park and a loopy countermelody reminiscent of Weezer. The heavy swagger of “One Eyed Bastard” echoes The Clash’s “London Calling.” Armstrong’s lyric gleefully takes the low road, exulting in long-sought revenge. “Bada-bing, bada boom,” goes the band’s mob chorus, tailor-made for singalongs at summer stadium concerts. The chugging “Dilemma” is a portrait of chaos and disruption due to addiction. “Here’s to all my problems,” toasts Armstrong. “I just want to drink the poison.” The Bay Area trio’s arrangements throughout Saviors are punchy, potent, and tight. Cool’s whiplash snare drum is primed to perform chiropractic adjustments via caffeinated drumming on “1981” and should spark frenetic air-drumming by fans. Armstrong’s guitar and vocal passages during the song whiz by like an adrenalized take on Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench.” Dirnt’s propulsive bass line locks into Cool’s hammering toms and machine-gun fills on “Coma City” as the song laments complacency amid the decay caused by the ruling class’s rampant plunder.

Armstrong sings about everyday people who “board up the windows and drink lemonade” while billionaire CEOs take joyrides into space. “Goodnight Adeline” was a leftover from prior work on garage-rock outing Father of All… with producer Butch Walker and includes Walker’s acoustic guitar. The band attains peak power-pop with the tuneful escapism of “Corvette Summer,” fusing AC/DC-styled power-chord crunch and cowbell rhythm borrowed from Twisted Sister and glam-rock pioneers The Sweet while swiping the occasional Beach Boys lyric. “Take me to urgent care or the record store,” sings Armstrong. The record shop probably offers the more dependable cure. The equally nostalgic “Suzie Chapstick” mourns an old friendship that slipped away when one party found success abroad, and the other remained stuck in the same old hometown rut. “Ever since Bowie died, it hasn’t been the same,” sings Armstrong during “Strange Days are Here to Stay,” rattling off a litany of things that are irreparably wrong with the world and contemporary culture. Musically, it’s another song angling toward the blueprint of “Basket Case.” Armstrong’s most withering and pointed criticism arrives in the muscular and pissed-off “Living in the ‘20s.” Spilling fury about gun culture and radicalized social media, the song’s drive, melodic bent, and simmering disdain connect to fare like Bad Religion’s “21st Century Digital Boy.”

The tone turns sweeter during the emotive acoustic strummer “Father to a Son,” growing to power-ballad grandeur and backed by dramatic orchestral strings reminiscent of the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” It’s Saviors’ closest counterpart to “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” “I never knew that love could be scarier than anger,” sings Armstrong. The slashing guitars and harmony-laden chorus of the title track, “Saviors,” suggest that Green Day may have been spinning their dog-eared copies of Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan. “Will somebody save us tonight?” sings Armstrong, apparently weary of living through all of the troubles described on the album so far.

The answer to that question is apparently no; there is no ready-made valiant knight riding a steed toward anyone’s rescue because Armstrong ultimately decides to check himself back into the loony bin from the “Basket Case” video and dispense one final sarcastic salvo on “Fancy Sauce.” “Watch the evening news ‘cause it’s my favorite cartoon,” sneers Armstrong on the thundering downtempo anthem. “Everybody’s famous, stupid, and contagious,” sings Armstrong, cribbing from Kurt Cobain before the song brings Saviors to its conclusion with a stratospheric jam. The band’s feral energy may have been tempered by a notch or two with age, but the band’s savvy and songcraft are reliably intact. Saviors isn’t Green Day’s masterpiece, but it’s an effective and caustic companion to American Idiot that deserves to be racked alongside respected efforts like Insomniac and Nimrod.

Jeff Elbel

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Rotator photo: Jonathan Weiner

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Category: Spins

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