Green Day’s New 1LP Saviors Delivers Poignant, Thinking Person’s Power-Pop Punk Precision Best Heard on Vinyl, But Is the SQ Up to Our Exacting Standards?

There used to be a time when a hard rock album would come out that was able to balance strong social sentiment with catchy songwriting. Way back in the day, people would sometimes pump up the volume of such exciting new music to ear-bleeding levels so all the neighbors could rock along with it — whether willingly or unwillingly — be it LPs with songs like The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” or even Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” And if you really liked that new album of yours, you’d open up the windows of your home, dorm room, or wherever you happened to be, face your speakers outward, and blast that new music for all the world to hear — and, hopefully, to enjoy.

Now let’s fast-forward to today’s review subject, Green Day’s new studio LP, Saviors. Right from the opening notes, Saviors sure sounds like it could be that kind of record for today’s generation. Actually, I know it is, as I heard some kids at the local skate park near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco blaring it from their car stereo just the other day.

Saviors is chock-full of topical songs reflecting today’s times, from “The American Dream Is Killing Me” (Side A, Track 1) to “Strange Days Are Here to Stay” (Side B, Track 4), while the title track (Side B, Track 7) is a bit of a wakeup call to action for a new generation. In fact, I liked what I was hearing on Green Day’s Saviors so much that it inspired me to turn up the volume on my amp real loud, just like those old times I mentioned at the outset — and that is where some of my conflict began for this review. (More on that in a moment.)

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As far as key specs underlying the Saviors LP goes, it’s laid out somewhat hopefully in the fine print. The album was produced by Rob Cavallo and Green Day at RAK Studios (London) and Henson Recording Studios (Hollywood). The recording was engineered by Chris Dugen and mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge at Mix LA. The album was mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, Nashville. We don’t know the full, actual DNA of how this album was recorded, but it sounds like there is a pretty strong digital likelihood happening here. Finally, the SRP for Saviors is $27.99.

At Amoeba Music in San Francisco where I bought my copy of Saviors, they were only selling the indie-store exclusive pink-black vinyl edition. While we don’t yet know where this album was pressed, I can say my standard-weight vinyl was well-centered and generally pretty quiet when I was listening to it at comfortable volume levels (remember that latter thought for later).

This particular Saviors indie-shop packaging includes a large poster of the band that also doubles as a lyrics and credits sheet. My special pink-black edition also came with some nifty bonuses that were given to me at the checkout counter: a lyrics-centric comic book, cardboard promo poster, button, and a special, custom-printed plastic outer sleeve (shown below), which complements the design of the album itself when it’s placed inside it.

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Going back to my earlier comment about listening levels, I have to mention that if you turn up the volume on your amp up loud, you’ll inevitably hear the connecting point between the pink and black vinyl portions — i.e., a little, tiny, short “pfft” sound. I can only imagine the highly patterned splatter-vinyl pressings of Saviors might be pretty noisy (as they tend to be), but I can also report the Spotify splatter-vinyl edition is already sold out, so you may not have a chance to find out firsthand anyway. Rest assured, there are many other color vinyl options out there for Saviors if that is your thing, of course. And, generally speaking, in my experience, I find opaque vinyl to be better sounding than translucent options.

Anyhow, while I was setting the volume controls for the heart of my amp, I tried to get my loud rock groove going while playing Saviors. Sadly, I got the sense this album is very likely falling on the brickwalled side of 21st century production styles. As I raised the volume, the music started to sound less distinct, harsher, and ultimately less enjoyable than at quieter levels.

Musically speaking, Saviors is four-chord rock & roll that finds that sweet blend between the buzzsaw grind of punk rock and the hook-filled joy of classic power-pop — but, ultimately, I found there are not a lot of dynamics going on in this recording. Saviors does have its own sort of sonic palette, if you will. The vocals are really upfront, and the densely layered overdriven electric guitars are ripping, chugging, in-your-face slashers.

I do want to point out that I really do enjoy the music here on Saviors, and I’m utterly sure it sounded absolutely great for those kids at the skate park who were blaring it from their car stereo. That said, I suspect this mix is not necessarily one a certain number of us in the audiophile universe would love.

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Saviors is by no means a UHQR-like listening experience — not that it should be, mind you. For the sake of comparison, I sampled some of my favorite punk-leaning albums from back in the day to see if I was perhaps being too critical here.

To that end, my original pressing of the first Dead Kennedys album, September 1980’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is suitably hard-hitting and plenty buzzsaw-harsh, but when I turned it up really loud, the mix didn’t fall apart. In fact, things got tighter sounding with Klaus Flouride’s bass punching up in the mix quite a bit.

Next, The Dickies’ slamming comic-punk February 1979 A&M debut The Incredible Shrinking Dickies sounded pretty incredible turned up loud — the guitars slash as they should, yet you can hear the keyboards and drums super-clearly, including the all-important vocals. Meanwhile, my 180g reissue of the Ramones’ November 1977 Sire punk classic Rocket to Russia sounds pretty great pumped up to 11, especially with “Rockaway Beach” (Side 1, Track 2).

For a more contemporary comparison or two, I found Pearl Jam’s hard-hitting second album, October 1993’s Vs. (the original Epic pressing), sounded pretty great on tracks like “Animal” (Side 1, Track 2) and “Glorified G” (Side 1, Track 4). Another hard-rocking band I love that often records in the digital realm, Guided By Voices, sound much less processed on their latest release on GBV, November 2023’s Nowhere to Go But Up, than Green Day does on Saviors.

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Out of curiosity, I checked out Saviors on Qobuz, and you know what? The vinyl sounds better than the 24-bit/96kHz version of it that’s streaming there. I heard some annoying flanging-flavored artifacts making everything sound extra mushy, especially when turned up loud. The version of Saviors on Tidal (also 24/96) at least sounded more like the vinyl edition to my ear. (I shudder to think how this album might sound on a low-bitrate streamer, however.)

Some of my favorite tracks on Saviors include the aforementioned album opener “The American Dream Is Killing Me” (Side A, Track 1), which is a kicker. The next song, “Look Ma, No Brains!” (Side A, Track 2), is a slamming character study that reminds me of a certain smash hit Nirvana track from the early 1990s. This is quite a one-two-punch start to the album!

I also like the quasi-power-ballad epic album-ender “Fancy Sauce” (Side B, Track 8), with its ear-wormy “we all die young someday” chorus. “Dilemma” (Side A, Track 5) is a powerful tune, with the voice of the addicted who “doesn’t want to be a dead man walking” yet can’t seem to find the way out. Imagine Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” crossed with the lyrical poignancy of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” and you have an idea where this tune will take you. Plus, the bridge section of this song is beautiful.

“Bobby Sox” (Side A, Track 3) sounds like a fun mashup between Nirvana, Weezer, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, while “One Eyed Bastard” (Side A, Track 4) kind of flips the hook and feel from Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” inside out — which, with a wink and a smile, is a fun thing to hear, music-continuum-wise, given Zep’s early reputation for not-always-subtle aural appropriations.

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Now, I can hear some of you asking, after all that, if Saviors is a bad-sounding record. Well, I’m not comfortable calling it “bad” per se, simply because it is not to my liking, but I had to give it a moderate numerical rating of 5 for the Sound, although the Music itself merits an 8. I will say this: Saviors is a modern hard-rocking pop record with an appropriately modern production well-suited for modern playback systems. Whether you actually like that style of recording is ultimately a personal preference. That said, if you are seeking a lot of dynamics and distinctive guitar/amp tones from a hard-rocking album played on an upscale sound system, you might be disappointed with how Saviors comes across in that regard.

That said, I do encourage you to check Saviors out because, at the end of the day, the melodies and the message are ultimately what is most important here. It’s hard to deny Green Day’s energy as a band on Saviors, which is wonderful. This is the sound of a well-oiled three-man group firing on all cylinders. I have only seen them live in concert once, and while I can’t claim to be a deep fan, I really do respect them for all the right reasons. With all that in mind, the driving power-pop sound Green Day achieve on Saviors may just be enough for you to give it a try on vinyl.

Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.

Music Direct Buy It Now

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GREEN DAY
SAVIORS

1LP (Reprise)

Side A
1. The American Dream Is Killing Me
2. Look Ma, No Brains!
3. Bobby Sox
4. One Eyed Bastard
5. Dilemma
6. 1981
7. Goodnight Adeline

Side B
1. Coma City
2. Corvette Summer
3. Suzie Chapstick
4. Strange Days Are Here To Stay
5. Living In The ’20s
6. Father To A Son
7. Saviors
8. Fancy Sauce

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COMMENTS
Tom L's picture

save some money and go with the CD, which Mark didn't review.

Lemon Curry's picture

GBV albums have terrible dynamics. If Saviors is worse, that is scary.
The CD of Saviors comes in at DR5.

jacobcow's picture

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