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Album Review: Saviors – Green Day

Release Date: January 19th, 2024

The party is over for Green Day. The California trio have finally woken up from their Father of All Motherfuckers (FOAM) hangover and come to the same realization as the rest of us: everything sucks. On their 14th album Saviors, they leave behind the devil may care, party vibe of FOAM to deliver their strongest and darkest album since American Idiot. Fears of the band being over due to their last record are washed away here. Instead, the Green Day that we know, and love is back with a vengeance.

Unlike their previous album, Green Day isn’t shying away from the political commentary here. Right from the opening track “The American Dream Is Killing Me” they’re letting you know they’re fed up with the current state of the world. The anthemic song may have a killer hook, but it’s a damning look at how the “American dream” is harder for people to achieve and how it’s harmful. This is just the beginning of the unexpectedly dark journey Green Day takes us on.

Displaying his finest writing in years, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong casts a critical eye on American society calling out everything from the isolation of social media to the cultural indifference to mass shootings. On the ripping “Living in the ’20s” Armstrong roars about the violence, hate, and disconnection that runs rampant. The frantic “Coma City” is about the masses numbing themselves from the surrounding chaos of everyday life. It also gets in a good dig at Elon Musk (“Bankrupt the planet for assholes in space”). And while “1981” seems like another explosive anthem about losing yourself to punk rock, there’s the looming threat of the Cold War and the apocalypse.

“Strange Days Are Here To Stay” laments how the world went to shit in 2016 and has only gotten worse from there. Armstrong declares things haven’t been the same “ever since [David] Bowie died.” It captures the stress and anxiety of daily life from minor inconveniences (“Ubers running late”) to societal issues that run rampant (“everyone is racist”). The song is quite dour even though the upbeat music would suggest otherwise. By the end, Armstrong is cynical and hopeless as he sings “I can’t see this ending well/now that it’s too late” a state of mind that’s far too common these days.

Elsewhere on the album Armstrong turns the focus inward. “Dilemma” sees the singer open up about his struggles with addiction. It pinpoints the moment when drinking and partying are not fun anymore. The party is over, your friends are gone, and you’re passed out on the floor with a hangover. Armstrong sings “I’ve been sober now I’m drunk again/I don’t want to be a dead man walking” knowing he needs to change, but still admits he can’t help but “drink the poison” once again. This realization feels like a milestone for Armstrong, who infamously had an alcohol-fueled meltdown at iHeart Radio Festival in 2012 and has been on and off the wagon since then.

Taking a cue from American Idiot, Armstrong opens up about fatherhood on “Father to a Son.” Whereas “Wake Me Up When September Ends” was about his father, this power ballad is about Armstrong’s role as a father. Though not as epic as “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” it’s a moving piece where Armstrong admits he’s made mistakes and hasn’t been a perfect father figure. Yet, he vows he won’t break their hearts or never let them down. It’s a tearjerker, especially if you’re a father yourself.

Despite the looming darkness, the record is a romping good time. Green Day may think everything sucks, but they’re still having fun. The songs are upbeat and have plenty of killer riffs, infectious hooks, and lots of attitude. There are also a few bright spots to keep the record from being downright depressing. Album highlight “Bobby Sox,” which has a sunny, mid-tempo riff you’d expect from Weezer, is about finding joy in doing the simplest things with someone you love. It’s also Armstrong’s most explicit declaration of his bisexuality as he sings “Do you wanna be my girlfriend?/Do you wanna be my boyfriend?”

With its retro power pop sound akin to Cheap Trick, “Suzie Chapstick” finds Armstrong yearning to reconnect with an old flame. It’s a light, breezy tune that shows off the band’s killer harmonies. “One Eye Bastard” is just a boot-stomping good time. Described as a revenge fantasy, the band takes on the role of mafiosos who don’t take any shit. The simple, yet raucous hook of “Bada bing, Bada Bing, Bada Boom” was built for live shows. You hear it once and it’ll never leave your brain. “Corvette Summer” is a classic 70s rock jam with dirty guitars and a killer hook that makes it impossible to sit still.

The album closes with “Fancy Sauce.” Don’t let the title fool you, this song is grim. Set against a lullaby-like guitar riff, it’s someone trying to stay sane when everything around you is going insane. It’s hard to escape because it’s everywhere: on social media, on the evening news, and right outside your window. Eventually, you can no longer resist and get consumed by it. The song ends with the dooming line: “We all die young someday/we all die young and watch it slip away” as if throwing up your hands and accepting your fate.

Saviors is Green Day at the top of their game. The band sounds great, Armstrong’s vocals are on point (no dodgy falsetto here), and he brought out the A material for this record. All killer, no filler. There’s an urgency to Saviors that we haven’t heard since American Idiot. There’s so much energy here that’s been missing from later Green Day records. We’ve had glimpses of it, but often it felt like the band was holding themselves back. Here, they unleash all that anger, anxiety, and exhaustion and it feels so good. This isn’t an off-the-rails experimental record that’s half-finished. It’s also not them playing it safe to get people back on their good side in the wake of a poorly received album. Instead, this is Green Day in the here and now. It’s them saying this is who we are now. This is what we sound like now. Take it or leave it. And it is glorious.

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Green Day - Saviors
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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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