Review Summary: Billy Joe Armstrong deploys a successful market scheme.American Idiot
is a landmark record.
The album is this not because of music technicality or an inclusion of a difficult set of lyrics, Green Day’s American Idiot
is a landmark for reasons that even go outside of the band’s initial intentions. The contents within the album and the outside surrounding events of the world in 2004 met together perfectly in what can best be described as one of rock’s biggest successes within the last decade. As such, it is a mystery as to how Billy Joe knew what exactly it would take to tip the scales back to the band’s side as he seemingly threw everything against the wall for one final attempt at renewed popularity. Whatever the case may be, the contents of this album showed innovation and progression in the pop punk genre that carried the bombastic mainstream impact of Blink-182’s to new heights and caused an all-career high - post-Dookie
- for Green Day that the band will probably never reach again.
The genius of the album lies within a set of songs, that while trite and pretentious in concept, prove to be memorable and provoking of nostalgia for anyone who heard it in the year of its release. Many have heard about the tale of Jesus of Suburbia
, and while serving as a competent shell to fit the songs into, the story is rather lackluster and undeserving of the quality pop punk songs to be found here. With the exceptions of the nine-minute epics and a few supplementary tracks, Billy Joe was wise enough to write the majority of the songs in a way that allows listeners to relate to certain individual cuts on a personal level - “American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Give Me Novacaine”, “Whatsername”, etc. - and in doing so, the album also dodges a potential problem of cheesiness along the way. For example, one of the main reasons “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was so successful in the mainstream was because of how the lyrics were so easily relatable to the listener - particularly to teenagers with a plethora of angst-ridden emotions.
As mentioned above, the album’s story of Jesus
serves as an appropriate housing for the contents therein. Each song is memorable and distinct in its own way, ranging from the short energetic jaunts as heard in “St. Jimmy” and “She’s a Rebel”, to full-on suites containing catchy, storytelling chapters that are found within “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming”. Some of the album’s best moments, however, are when Green Day begins a track with Billy’s distinct vocal musings layered over sparse instrumentation; later, this builds and escalate into distorted four-chord, pop punk bliss. “Give Me Novacaine”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, and “Whatsername” follow this pattern, and the latter of which offers a satisfying summary and closure for Jesus - as well as an individual listener - for the album. These build-ups are only more pleasurable because of the production values for American Idiot
. Past efforts from the band featured a more common crunch sound for the guitar riffs, but here things are much more beefed up and loud
-sounding when coming through the speakers.
While not unheard of for bands to hold a strong political opinion at the time, Green Day’s political view for this album plays a key role in tracks like “American Idiot”, “Holiday”, and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” - all of which being successful singles. Other bands at the time were just as adamant about politics and the foolishness in the media, but Green Day’s escalating popularity and undeniable market-controlling airwave dominance at the time caused the band to attract and reinforce
that much-maligned political tag. Controversy like this and the band’s more mainstream direction in production values has caused American Idiot
to become a type of love/hate album in which fans and critics are almost symmetrically divided in two.
All controversy aside, the music to be found here is quality and consistent stuff. The singles are certainly some of the album’s best tracks, although they were unfortunately over-played on the radio. However, you really can’t fault the band for this as they themselves had no control over the airplay - just the songs that were written for the album. In summary, the only fault for American Idiot
that I can see is the overly pretentious storyline and Billy Joe’s overtly apparent mainstream desire for the album. Other than that, Green Day’s American Idiot
is a pop punk record that will be remembered for years to come as being Green Day’s ticket back into to music world - not to mention being one heck of a pop punk album as well.