Music Review: Green Day are once again political pop-punk 'Saviors' on new album

This cover image released by Reprise Records shows "Saviors" by Green Day. (Reprise Records via AP)

Twenty years ago, the Grammy Award winning pop-punk trio Green Day released “American Idiot” — their ambitious rock opera, a treatise on a world power in decline written by a band with cultural clout and consequently, political power. (It was angry and smart, and most importantly, hook-heavy — the catchiness no doubt a driving factor in its Broadway adaptation.)

“American Idiot” ushered in a new generation of loyal listeners — in some situations, the children of the initial fans who account for one of the over 10 million sales of their 1994 album “Dookie" — offering a familiar language of dissidence for a generation just old enough to remember 9/11.

In short: time moves on, but Green Day remains ferocious, allowing their listeners the opportunity to put language and music to their frustration. The targets of their ire are always the same: war, systemic injustices, political pundits. And on their 2024 album, “Saviors,” their weapons are once again drawn.

Not that it was always this way. Prior to “Saviors,” their 14th studio album, Green Day took a detour. Their last album, 2020's “Father of All...” was garage-y rock with the band's characteristic fervor, but perhaps not their pop-punk sensibilities. This album is a return to form, in some ways, but free of any sense of being derivative. If you invented the wheel, what's so wrong about letting it roll again?

“Saviors," alternatively, kicks off with the spirited rock ‘n’ roll of “The American Dream Is Killing Me,” taking aim at a litany of sociocultural issues in lyrics like “People on the street/ Unemployed and obsolete,” delivered in frontman Billie Joe Armstrong 's immediately recognizable nasal snarl. “Look Ma, No Brains!” is a return to their jubilant absurdity; “Grandma’s on the fentanyl now,” Armstrong sings on “Strange Days Are Here to Stay,” a song that suggests the apocalypse is now.

The fuzzed out, distorted guitars on “Living in the '20s” ascend into a solo, as Armstrong chants about mass shootings. His voice unravels into a scream, with drummer Tré Cool, bassist Mike Dirnt and producer Rob Cavallo (who worked with the band on both “Dookie,” and “American Idiot”) controlling the chaos.

There are loving moments here, too, as there are throughout Green Day's discography — like in the swinging '90s college radio rock sing-along “Bobby Sox.”

A few weeks before Green Day released “Saviors,” they performed the song “American Idiot” on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” swapping what was once a contentious line targeting the Bush administration into one with its eyes set on Trump. “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda,” became “I'm not part of a MAGA agenda,” and the internet was set aflame. If anything, the moment is evocative of “Saviors'” identity. It is an album built from the band's earlier accomplishments, edited for the current moment — and likely a slightly older audience.

If parents consider punk a phase, perhaps this is evidence that frustrations — and speaking truth to power, however it aligns with your beliefs — is not.


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