Sometimes, good things can come from unexpected misfortune. This is the case for Green Day's American Idiot
. After almost two lacklustre albums in a row, the band went into the studio and recorded a batch of around 20 songs, supposedly sounding similar to the songs that were on their 2000 album Warning
. The tapes dissappeared, and so the band decided to scrap the idea and try something completely new: a "punk-rock opera," taking cues from bands like the Who and Pink Floyd, both of whom have drilled that pompous term into our heads ever since their releases. Though the band has been criticized for following trends, such as the vague political content of the album, and their sudden change in fashion, their integrity remains (somewhat) intact, as they have grabbed ahold of a new fanbase, and perhaps have alienated their old, yet loyal fanbase.
The recording process of American Idiot
also became a place to exorcise certain demons that had been haunting the band for quite awhile, as they yearned to try to work and coexist as a band in peace. The results came from a series of what you may describe as therapy meetings, where the band spoke of their feelings and ideas and whatnot. Though to many people this may seem irrelevant to a review of the album itself, if it were not for those steps the band took as human beings, they may have never made the album. Is this a good thing? Let that be your choice.
As any rock opera or concept album, American Idiot
has a set of important characters, as the events of their lives are vaguely told throughout the album. Though there are political underlyings throughout, American Idiot
stands as more of a social commentary more than a direct attack at the Bush Administration. The main "story" of the album involves a few characters: Jesus of Suburbia, the so-called "american idiot" of the story, the anti-hero, so to speak. There is also Saint Jimmy, the punk-rock freedom fighter, and Whatsername, the "Mother Reveolution" figure, almost like the nemesis of Saint Jimmy. The album, according to Billie Joe Armstrong : "The constant theme of the record is 'rage versus love.' You can go with the blind rebellion of self-destruction, where Saint Jimmy is. But there's a more love-driven side to that, which is following your beliefs and ethics. And that's where Jesus of Suburbia wants to go"
. Though the plot is somewhat confusing throughout the album, another result of the vague symbolism and story details. This results in a rather messy concept album. And we all know how bad concept albums can be.
Needless to say, Green Day haven't strived as far away from their original sound as many cynics claim. Though they have experimented with sounds and different musical ideas and landscapes, most of the songs follow the same 3-chord staple that punk-rock has been limited by since it's birth. They make it work, though, by using those same boring power-chords in new ways. Trying to break the cliches of the genre they helped push into the mainstream, Green Day have turned to writing 9 minute songs with several movements, usually the work of progressive bands. Do not be blinded by the length, though. The two songs, "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming," are nothing as to what you would expect. They are, generally, a few brief variations and experiments crammed into one song, though their old sound and style still runs through the core of them all. "Homecoming" is the messy sister-song, somehow not capable of achieveing the magical feel that the other does, turning into a rather boring song, causing one to zone out for quite some time. "Wake Me Up When September Ends," easily the most sentimental song on the album, is an ode to Billie Joe's father, who had recently died. Though the song runs along the same "quiet verse/loud chorus" cliche, it comes off as honest, despite it's newfound recognition by the music media. "Whatsername" also achieves the same muted quality, ending the album on a resolutely quiet note, after such barnburners as "Letterbomb" that clog the middle half of the album. Even if the singles are complete trash (which they are), packed full of faux-political rage and rabid ignorance, the rest of the album is an amiable effort that is easily enjoyed. It's a progression, yes, and hopefully they won't fall back down into mediocrity.