Rich Funk

Green Day Do The Pop Punk 'Eras Tour' Thing on 'Saviors'

Rich Funk
Jun 15, 2024
6 min read
Green Day Do The Pop Punk 'Eras Tour' Thing on 'Saviors'

Move over, Taylor. You aren't the only one revisiting your eras these days.

Green Day is back with Saviors, their 14th full-length album and their first since 2020's unfortunately named Father of All Motherfuckers. Like I mentioned last week when they dropped 'One Eyed Bastard', the first few singles we got off Saviors were a mixed bag of different sounds from throughout Green Day's extensive history. With the recent announcement that the band will be playing both Dookie and American Idiot in their entirety during this summer's stadium tour with the Smashing Pumpkins and Rancid, I've been thinking about the different eras that the band has had over their 37 year history. I am not a music historian, I'm just a dude that's been into Green Day for most of his life. But if I had to draw lines in the sand, here's where things would shake out:

The 'This is too short to be it's own era, but there's nowhere else to put it so it goes here' Era: 39/Smooth - They're just finding their way as a band and it sounds pretty cruddy. It can just be here on its own.

The 'Dookie' Era: Kerplunk to Insomniac - All three albums have the same energy and attitude. In the case of Kerplunk and Dookie, they even share a few of the same songs!

The 'Experimental' Era: Nimrod and Warning - Like taking their first few albums and adding more. Heavier riffs on Nimrod. Harmonica and sax on Warning. A natural evolution of their sound that was a necessary step to get to...

The 'American Idiot' Era: American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown - While most people only recognize American Idiot (and not without reason), both these albums are companion pieces to each other.

The 'Rich didn't care for this era' Era: Uno to Father of All Motherfuckers - Despite a handful of awesome singles, it just felt like this run of albums was coming from a band going through whatever the musical equivalent of a midlife crisis is (do we really need dudes in their 40's singing songs called 'Makeout Party' and 'Fuck Time'?).

In my review of 'One Eyed Bastard' I alluded to the new album lining up to be a Forrest Gump box of chocolates situation. Which Green Day were we going to get? Young and angry Green Day (peanut filled)? Older and angrier for more mature reasons Green Day (coconut dark chocolate)? Or would we get the recent 'do they still have it?' Green Day (the one with the slightly-unpleasant cherry in the middle)?

Upon listening to Saviors a few times this morning, I think I might have been asking the wrong question, or at least expecting something I shouldn't be waiting for. I'm not going to get Dookie Era Green Day or American Idiot Era Green Day...because they aren't those bands anymore. Those eras were 30 and 20 years ago respectively. The guys in the band aren't in their 20's with the piss and vinegar men of their age often find themselves filled with. They aren't 30 year olds thinking they could use their weight as a band to make actual change in this country. They're in their 50's and have been a band for almost four decades. They should sound different. They should be trying new things. I think that's why I haven't cared much for their recent run of albums. They all blended together into something that wasn't particularly memorable.

(Look at that. I'm 600 words in and am just now finally getting around to talking about the album that came out today and not ones that came out between Clinton and Obama. This site needs an editor. Oh wait that's me shit sorry.)

If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Saviors was Green Day's conscious attempt at taking all the sounds of their various eras (aside from 39/Smooth) and throwing bits and pieces into the mix as they saw fit. And the good news is that the outcome is much more hit than miss.

That's not what I expected when I first heard 'The American Dream is Killing Me', the lead single and lead track off Saviors. Sounding like a B-side from 21st Century Breakdown (which itself sounded like B-sides from American Idiot), it sounded more and more disconnected over time. Yes, things aren't going great in America and the more attention pointed at the inequalities and hardships of current times on the average person in this country the better, but something just seems a bit off to hear multimillionaires in their 50's singing about 'people on the street/unemployed and obsolete' like they're being viewed through the window of a passing limousine. Look, I'm not saying that Green Day should have saved us from all the problems they railed against on American Idiot, but a lot of the things they touch on in this song (and 'Strange Days are Here to Stay' later on in the album) are the same problems we saw then, only worse. It's fine to shine a light on the problem without being expected to solve it singlehandedly. Maybe it's just that the light is a little less noticeable after it's been shining in the same spot for decades.

And yes, I have pulled off that amazing and always welcome journalistic feat of saying I liked something and then immediately turning around and picking apart the first bit of it. Pulitzer, here I come.

The good news is, most of the rest of Saviors is much better than its lead track. And like I mentioned before, a lot of these tracks bring back strong memories of your favorite songs from yesteryear. 'Look Ma, No Brains!' is the kind of weird semi-sensical lyrics sung from the POV of some vague protagonist that wouldn't sound out of place on Insomniac. 'One Eyed Bastard' is prime Nimrod energy. But it doesn't sound like the band is attempting to imitate their past selves, more just embracing the spirit of those eras and pumping it into their modern mindset.

That's not to say they only cover familiar ground. I've always been a fan of when Green Day leans into the aggressive side (think 'Hitchin' a Ride' and 'East Jesus Nowhere'), and it still seems like they can tap into that raw place on songs like 'Living in the '20's'. A riff as sharp as the commentary and delivery showing Billie Joe still has a little teeth behind the bite after all these years. Songs like 'Corvette Summer' and 'Susie Chapstick' lean more into summertime grooves and straight up ballads than the band ever has before. The chorus to Bobby Sox sounds more like The Offspring than Green Day. Judge the effectiveness for yourself, but it's nice to hear the band still stretching the edges of their sound after such a long time.

Are there some missteps on the album? Of course. With the dipping back into previous eras and sounds that I mentioned being the prevalent theme of the album, you're naturally going to get some songs that sound like you've heard them before. 'Goodnight Adeline' sounds like 'Novovaine' part two. Coma City starts out veering toward being a retread of 'Murder City' only to be saved by a fantastic riff and way more major chords. They aren't necessarily bad songs, but it's like drinking Diet Dr. Pepper when regular Dr. Pepper is right there. Why settle when the original is right there?

I have a few other small, specific gripes. 'Father to a Son' is the answer to the question "What if Green Day tried to 'With Arms Wide Open'?", which is not a question I ever thought I would be posed. '1981' is a fine enough song, but don't we have our quota of "easygoing unnamed female character gets her kicks head banging to 80's music" songs by now? But these are all just nitpicks about very listenable songs on a very good album. It might not be the Green Day album I thought I wanted, but then I realized I already have those albums and they aren't going anywhere. Looking at this for what it is (the 14th album by a band who have been around almost 40 years), it checks all the boxes of what I would want and threw in some curveballs I didn't expect at the same time. I don't think I could ask for more than that.

Toward the end of the album on the title track, Billie Joe Armstrong makes it clear that whoever it is that's going to save us from the mess we see around us, it's not going to be them, asking for a savior to come and lead us all out of this mess. Maybe this is the start of a new 'We're old enough to know we don't have the answers' Era. Which is fine by me. I did the 'young and angry' thing like they did. Let the country be someone else's problem for a while.

(I kid, I kid. Go out and vote, kids.)

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