It’s kinda crazy how Green Day — a band that rose to fame on a string of hit singles about crushing, aimless boredom — stands a fair chance of being remembered as politically subversive. After chasing the Bush-era malaise of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown with the lighthearted 2012 triple album ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!, the trio has reunited for October’s Revolution Radio, a new album born out of the last two years of homeland unrest. The lead single, “Bang Bang,” opens while flipping through cable-news reports of ISIS beheadings, and launches into a breakneck first-person story of a “semiautomatic lonely boy” who longs to be a “celebrity martyr.” The juxtaposition of foreign and domestic terrorism is clever but cloying: Yes, many American mass shooters thirst for notoriety. But ISIS, in its uniform anonymity and ideological stringency, isn’t the same at all. It moves in concert, like fingers clenched into a fist, whereas homegrown terror is a succession of loners using shocking acts of violence as stepping stones to TV coverage.
Nuance has never been a strong suit for Billie Joe Armstrong, but speedy pop-punk is, and thankfully “Bang Bang” delivers the latter — even if the music here owes more to ‘90s Pennywise records than anything in the landscape of 2016. As comebacks go, it’s a sharp statement of purpose, but ultimately a bit of a retread for a band that caught an unexpected second wind a decade ago with a dollop of prog-rock theatricality and spite for authority. It’s crazy for Green Day to even matter at this point, when Cali-punk crossover peers like Bad Religion and Rancid have slipped out of the mainstream into stately, punk-scene grace. Green Day’s been around since the mid-’80s, and your 30s are about figuring out what you’re good at and forging ahead. But are they sacrificing growth for stability? We’ll find out when September ends.