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Quick Spins: Green Day, Bon Iver, Love In October

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 10, 2016 8:00PM

Green Day, photo by Frank Maddocks

Quick Spins is our semi-regular tour through new and recent releases worth your while. Consider this your quick cheat sheet on what to load up on your earbuds if you're looking for something new.

2016_10_revolution_radio.jpg Green Day
Revolution Radio

It’s been a four-year wait for the new Green Day album, which follows their 2012 trilogy ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!: three full albums of varying styles that met with uneven critical reception. The series of discs seemed to be Green Day’s way of proving they could shoulder heavy loads of material, but the execution proved the trio is better when they approach songwriting with a greater sense of focus.

Revolution Radio finds the band back in the mode that serves them best—crafting quick blasts of punk-pop that all fire in the same musical and thematic direction. One could forgive the band’s attempts to continually push the boundaries of the genre after the classic song cycle of 2004's rock opera American Idiot, and the still-satisfying if somewhat unwieldy musical theater of 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. But it was clearly time for Green Day to return to their roots and bang out something spontaneous and (relatively) brief. The ethos here seems to be (mostly) avoid the grandiose and go for the jugular.

The result is something closer to the Dookie and Nimrod days, without sacrificing the aren-rock chops. In fact, by stripping down the arrangements and allowing the songs to be carried by the holy trinity of buzzing guitars, rollicking bass and tumultuous yet lock-step drums, the band’s racket grows more authentically epic. Band leader Billie Joe Armstrong is still the angriest oldish punk in the room, spewing lacerating lyrics towards our current political and social-media climates while still saving room for character pieces of the lost and disillusioned. But damn if this vitriol isn’t catchy as all get out. On Revolution Radio, Green Day has stopped trying to tell us they’re making grand statements and are just letting the songs speak for themselves, masking the message in undeniable, “play it again and again, Sam” power-pop hooks.

Green Day plays Aragon Ballroom on Oct. 23.

2016_10_22_a_million.jpg Bon Iver
22, A Million

Wisconsin's Bon Iver gained unexpected mainstream fame on the basis of mastermind Justin Vernon's tender songwriting and fragile arrangements. The aching beauty, transmitted through the delicate vocals atop the orchestral folk musical beds, attracted many listeners. To these ears, the earlier work felt more anodyne than anything else, but who is this writer to bemoan others their personal tastes, especially amidst unexpected success and skyrocketing album sales?

So imagine my surprise upon hearing 22, A Million, an album that has been met by a response that seems more than split, and actually teeters on the perplexed as far as how to view the work. Gone are the gentle meadows of sound, replaced by aural distortions, unexpected musical left turns and vocal manipulations that screw and twist Vernon’s voice on many of the tracks.

Honestly though, it’s not that weird an album. Opener “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” may be plagued with artificially aged tape drop-outs and vocals that veer from soulful into a chorus of robots, but it still comes across as a pretty basic hymn. This is followed by the jarring beats of "10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄,” matched up with Vernon channeling a number of different voices, creating a prog-pop burst that feels epic even as it clocks in at under two-and-a-half minutes.

This isn’t the “difficult third album;” instead it appears Vernon finally feels free to deliver music in the envelope it deserves, instead of stuffing it into previously held expectations. It would be easy to attribute this change in direction to his numerous collaborations with other artists, including Kanye West, but I’d prefer to posit that this is the voice that was always lurking behind Bon Iver’s more polite earlier catalog.

Tl;dr? Nick Drake has left the building and full-on flower costume-era Peter Gabriel has taken his place. And it's very, very good.

Bon Iver is on tour, but has no Chicago date set. Yet. Is it too early to make Pitchfork Music Fest predictions?

2016_10_love_in_october_iii.jpg Love In October
Love In October III

Love In October's third self-titled EP came out a while ago, but it's one of those musical works that keeps finding its way into my personal musical rotation at least weekly. At four songs and 11 minutes it doesn't demand a lot of your time, but you end up finding yourself living a great deal with this EP anyway; you simply can't help it.

The band is the project of two brothers from Sweden, Erik and Kent Widman. One still lives in Stockholm, Sweden while the other resides in Chicago. While that distance hasn't stopped the duo from creating music, it's certainly slowed them down, since Love In October III is their first new release since 2011.

Their sound is simple: there's new-wave guitars and synthesizers, sing-along vocals and gritty garage pop tighter than The Strokes' debut album.

Sometimes trying to dissect music in ways to convince you to listen to it is often better served by just directing you to the mainline, and in the case of Love In October III, I think that's the way to go. There's nothing earth-shatteringly important going on here, aside from the fact that these four songs are nigh perfect pop you won't be able to get enough of.