Green Day Shouldn’t Even Matter in 2016, But Their New Single Kinda Delivers

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Green Day at the House of Blues Cleveland
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 16: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs onstage at House Of Blues on April 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images) Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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.

Green Day Shouldn’t Matter in 2016, and Yet …