Although most casual listeners have only heard tracks from “American Idiot,” Green Day and their furious, political, deliciously all-American pop punk has remained a household name for fans of alternative music since the ’90s. Their 14th studio album, “SAVIORS”, meets the incredible precedent set by “American Idiot” and other indisputable classics like “Dookie” — a welcome redemption following their recent albums’ missteps.
Fans who disliked the band’s poppy, overprocessed sound in their previous album “Father of All Motherfuckers” will be delighted to sink their teeth into “SAVIORS.” This album showcases Green Day at their best. Get past the forgettable and lyrically middling “The American Dream is Killing Me” as the opening track, and relish in the choppy vocals and power chords of “Look Ma! No Brains” that bring back the deliciously dirty energy of Green Day’s youth. Lose yourself next in Tre Cool’s mind-melting drumming that closes out “Coma City” with a crash-crash-crash — a welcome surprise after the juvenile beats of “Father of All Motherfuckers.” Strong guitars, enrapturing basslines and sincerity to the punk style make “SAVIORS” sound like an encore to “American Idiot” and an homage to the rawer, grittier crunch of their musical past, with lyrical work to match.
Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong might not be punk’s most inspired lyricist, but the interpersonal pain and American anguish he captures in short stanzas shine bright in this album. In “Dilemma”, Armstrong sing-screams “I was sober, now I’m drunk again / I’m in trouble and in love again / I don’t wanna be a dead man walking” with the desperation of someone who clings to recovery from addiction with a bleeding vice grip, and the power of someone who is finally fully secure in the progress they’ve made. While “Still Breathing” — another powerful song about addiction recovery from the band’s 2016 album “Revolution Radio” — was an affirmation of life and ode to Armstrong’s persistence, “Dilemma” is a reflection: a testament to and acknowledgement of the road that led here.
“Suzie Chapstick” might not have the life-ruining nostalgic power of American Idiot’s “Whatsername”, but its sweet lyrics — “Did we get over our innocence / did we take the time to make amends?” — gently couched in Armstrong’s heartfelt, pleading falsetto had me dangerously close to calling some exes. Not to mention the soul-wrenching emotion Armstrong packs into “Father to a Son,” a song I can clearly imagine him playing on an acoustic guitar in the dim lighting of his son’s bedroom, voice softened with love.
Like most of Green Day’s work, “SAVIORS” is unabashedly political. “The American Dream is Killing Me” is a trite, if enjoyable, jab at capitalism, while other tracks like “Strange Days are Here to Stay” and “Living in the 20s” offer more multilayered critiques using Armstrong’s quintessential image of tainted, anti-divine suburbia. “SAVIORS” captures today’s political moment exceptionally well, with a perfect balance of punk-rock anger, helpless apathy and yearning.
The album’s biggest flaws stem from its mediocre opening track and the fact that “One Eyed Bastard” sounds better suited for Green Day’s previous album than this one. It’s a fun, playful track with lyrics that could be written by a mafia gangster, but carries distinct carelessly-made-for-commercial-radio energy that impedes the flow of an otherwise well-structured track list. On every other count, though, “SAVIORS” soars. Rob Cavallo’s production has created mouthwatering earworms that have fans clamoring for his return on future albums. Warm acoustic strumming and machine-gun snares meld together in a delectable medley of tempo and genre, running the listener through a highlight reel of Green Day’s best ideas since their first practice session. “Bobby Sox” even indulges queer fans with a slower, romantic reprise on Armstrong’s bisexuality complete with heart-stuttering screams; the perfect song for any romantic confession.
As much as it pains me to dethrone “Revolution Radio” as my go-to Green Day album, “SAVIORS” will be all I’m queueing for the next few months. More than anything, it feels like a love letter: to the fans of Green Day’s rock operas, of previous decades’ pop punk, of loving earnestness, of incomprehensible lyrics and the musical prowess of bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool. Think what you will about their previous discography, but there’s no doubt that “SAVIORS” is the salvation Green Day fans have been seeking.