Does Green Day’s album “Saviors” save punk?

Pop-punk band Green Day has released their 14th studio album, “Saviors.” The controversial band is well-known for their hit albums “Dookie” and “American Idiot,” iconic albums in pop-punk. // Photo courtesy of Pitchfork

On Jan. 19, punk rock band Green Day released their 14th studio album, “Saviors.”  The Grammy-Award-winning group released the album’s first single, “The American Dream is Killing Me,” in October 2023, aptly setting the tone of their first full-length album since 2020’s “Father Of All…” 

The single was the last of the tracks from “Saviors” to be recorded but the first to be released to the public. Emphasizing the harm that the traditional “American Dream” is doing to people through lyrics about gentrification, homelessness and unemployment, the song seemingly promised a return to the politically charged themes synonymous with Green Day and that many fans felt were missing from “Father of All…”  

The album’s release coincidentally followed online controversy regarding the band’s substitution of “MAGA” for “redneck” in the line “I’m not a part of the redneck agenda” during “American Idiot,” one of the band’s most well-known songs from their 2005 album of the same name. 

Though the band’s discography has always included scathing commentary on controversial issues, and on-stage political statements are nothing new for Green Day, many people — including Tesla CEO Elon Musk — took to the internet to complain about “wokeness” and bands needing to “stay out of politics.” Almost ironically, “Saviors” dropped three weeks later with a politics and social commentary-filled tracklist, starting with “The American Dream is Killing Me.” 

Immediately, the album leans away from the poppier sound of “Father of All…” with heavy power chords and a gritty, angry sound to the vocals that fits comfortably alongside the band’s earlier work with “American Idiot” and “Holiday,” — both songs notorious for their criticism of the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, bias and rising extremism in the United States.

Tracks like “Look Ma, No Brains!” “One Eyed Bastard,” “Coma City” and “Living in the 20s” feature criticism of modern topics, including billionaire space travel, mass shootings and mass media consumption. 

Interspersed with the raging punk songs are tracks that evoke early 2000s nostalgia, such as “1981” and “Suzie Chapstick,” through references to MTV and feelings of longing for lost connections.

Other songs simply have a teenage, carefree feeling, such as “Corvette Summer,” which includes an allusion to the Beach Boys and “Bobby Sox,” a song notable for using “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” interchangeably as a reference to Armstrong’s bisexuality.  

Lastly, the band made sure to include a few power ballads in “Goodnight Adeline” and “Father to a Son” to round off the versatile yet still wholly punk-rock album. “Saviors” finishes with the more relaxed and distinctly final-sounding “Fancy Sauce,” during which Armstrong makes one final reference, this time to the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, with the words “Everybody’s famous, stupid and contagious.”  

The album itself was produced by Rob Cavallo, who has worked with Green Day before on several albums like “Dookie” and “American Idiot,” both award-winning albums that played significant roles in the band’s success. The album sounds similar to these two hit albums, too.

Each song on the album has a distinct sound, instrumentally and harmonically, while still fitting together as a cohesive final product. Long-time fans will be happy to hear Armstrong’s vocals still holding up after the band’s career of over 30 years. If “Saviors” shows anything, it is that these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are not slowing down anytime soon.