Liner Notes: ‘Saviors’? Maybe not. But Green Day’s pop-punk has aged to perfection.
Stars and Stripes January 26, 2024
If punk rock is supposed to be about style and ethos, Green Day will forever be the idiom’s most authentic mainstay. If it’s required to have 90-second songs filled with lightning-quick tempos, obnoxious vocals and an inherent disregard for acceptance … well, perhaps Green Day aren’t that. Anymore, at least. Gone are the days when cussing at and spitting on people felt pure; in are the days that don’t feel complete if the band doesn’t score a Hot 100 single.
As such, “Saviors,” Green Day’s 14th studio record in more than 35 years of existence, pulls all the tricks it knows to try and achieve zeitgeist success. The pop is prevalent — but let’s not pretend like it ever went away. Some of the group’s critics zeroed in on producer Butch Walker as the reason their last few records haven’t connected in a large way. It’s an odd gripe because there are at least two instances here where Walker’s presence feels all but ensured to be there, despite Rob Cavallo getting the nod as the album’s producer.
Those two songs? Single “One Eyed Bastard,” which lifts its guitar hook almost verbatim from Pink’s “So What,” which appeared on her “Funhouse,” which Walker helped produce. The other is “Goodnight Adeline,” which features the ubiquitous drum fill from Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” (and to be fair, a million other songs). Knowing Walker has production credits on multiple Weezer records, “Goodnight” feels like it could fit anywhere on “Pacific Daydream” or “Raditude” and nobody would blink an eye. This is a compliment, of course — Walker knows pop music and Green Day, despite what they might want you to believe, knows it quite well, too.
That knowledge is littered all over these 15 tracks in much the same way that duo of songs displays. “Father To A Son” is the requisite ballad with which Green Day has become synonymous since “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).” This time, however, leader Billie Joe Armstrong’s earnestness is replaced with a Beatles-esque string section and a sleek sound that isn’t not akin to your favorite modern day pop radio piano-rock star. “Bobby Sox,” for its part, echoes All-American Rejects’ best moments with its anthemic undertones, while “The American Dream Is Killing Me” swings enough to stick in your head for days, like all the best Green Day songs do.
It all adds up to one, big pop music statement that has its political messaging highlighted by the wit with which it is presented. There’s isn’t a song on the album that couldn’t be a No. 1 single — they’re all that accessible and endearing. The problem is the formula in the identity: The band is too pop to be punk, but too punk to consistently transcend pop. With that preface, “Saviors” is a very good pop-rock album.
The question therein becomes whether “a very good pop-rock album” is enough to be a savior of anything — be it an entire punk scene or merely Green Day’s quest for another chart-topping hit.