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Hear This Not That: Green Day’s album evokes pre-teen nostalgia, Sum 41’s lacks maturity

Green Day’s twelfth studio album “Revolution Radio” offered political lyrics. (Reprise)

By Kun Yong (Sean) Lee

Oct. 9, 2016 8:04 p.m.

Music fans can find it hard to decide which albums to stream and which to skip, considering the surplus of new music released. Each week, A&E columnist Sean Lee will compare two newly released albums and recommend which one students should listen to. For this installation, Lee compares the throwback sounds of Sum 41’s latest album “13 Voices” with Green Day’s “Revolution Radio.”

Pop punkers Green Day and Sum 41 have managed to transport me back to my angst-ridden middle school adolescence with their Friday album releases.

Both Green Day and Sum 41 have not veered far from their pop punk roots, reveling in the genre’s classic, overly sensitive lyricism and basic four-chord melodies. Although both bands stick to punk’s cookie-cutter formula, Green Day’s twelfth studio album “Revolution Radio” seamlessly combines insightfully political lyrics and sing-song melodies, while Sum 41’s sixth studio album “13 Voices” comes off as overproduced and lyrically immature.

[Last week: Hear This Not That: The Wytches versus The Growlers]

“A Murder of Crows,” the opener from “13 Voices,” begins with an orchestral intro before suddenly breaking into a heavy-metal chug. The abrupt change in styles and overtly distorted guitar makes for a painful listening experience, made worse by frontman Deryck Whibley’s self-righteous lyrics, “I’m getting sick of hypocrites saying nothing.”

The rest of the album contains the same discordant instrumentation and cheesy lyrics as the opener. The wave of phaser effects on “Fake My Own Death” drowns out the band while Whibley’s screaming vocals are overdubbed to the point of incoherency.

The repetitive melody on “God Save Us All (Death to POP)” over the chorus, “Give it to me, give ’til you ain’t got anymore,” paired with double-bass drums and high-gain guitar sounds is as off-puttingly gratuitous as an Ed Hardy shirt at the Hot Topic store. The standout track from “13 Voices” is the closer “Twisted By Design,” where Whibley finally offers a moment of genuine lyricism as he sings about his recent hospitalization due to alcohol poisoning. The touch of personal poignancy is a welcome update from the rest of the album’s sanctimonious clichés.

[Read more: Hear This Not That: Shawn Mendes versus Devendra Banhart]

Unlike the harsh production and recycled lyrics of “13 Voices,” “Revolution Radio” showcases Green Day’s ability to write songs that are lyrically fresh and radio-friendly.

Album opener “Somewhere Now” eases the listener into the album with an arpeggiated acoustic guitar as Billie Joe Armstrong sarcastically sings, “All grown up and medicated on my own cellular waves.” When the entire band joins in for the chorus, I could discern the different riffs and fills as opposed to the chaotic wave of distortion on Sum 41’s “13 Voices.”

Unlike the screaming fragmented melodies on the songs of “13 Voices,” the pulsating choruses of “Say Goodbye” and “Too Dumb to Die” on “Revolution Radio” contain catchy melodies that easily got stuck in my head. Armstrong’s impassioned “oh” vocalizations become easy-to-utter syllables for impromptu singing sessions in the shower.

“Revolution Radio” does alienate listeners at times with Armstrong’s overt, politically leftist lyrics, particularly on the songs “Troubled Times” and “Bang Bang,” but any extremism in lyricism is salvaged with addicting choruses and infectious pop melodies.

“13 Voices,” on the other hand, contains nothing close to musical redemption, with nearly every song blowing out listeners’ ears with indiscernible lyrics and musical heaviness brought on by the grating high gain and trebly production.

Listen to “Revolution Radio” to relive the nostalgic soundtrack of your prepubescent life. Listen to “13 Voices” for a musical experience as uncomfortable as the skinny jeans donned by the band members.

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Kun Yong (Sean) Lee
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