Review Summary: This is the dawning of the rest of our lives.
In my opinion, American Idiot is the best album of its decade. Although competition for this title dropped off as iTunes became so accessible that singles were the safest bet for artists, this is still an effort that holds resonance and furthermore, few people would question it. It went to #1 on ten country’s charts, and has sold 14 million copies.
First of all, the anti-U.S theme of the album was a very risky move, considering their reputation as trailer trash, American, snot nosed brats who could deliver strong punk music. But the album was a massive hit in their home country as the U.S Government was becoming increasingly unpopular for their unsuccessful, lie filled invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Green Day’s sudden maturity and deep lyric writing would make American Idiot a true monster.
The opening, anthemic title track is one of the greatest political protest songs of all time. Its most remarkable trait is to so concisely capture the mood of America at a very uncertain time, when people wanted to believe that the war on terror was a success yet, deep down, were beginning to suspect that they were being fed lies by the media (Now everybody “Do the propaganda!”) and that the public’s dependence on the power of the U.S was all that was holding belief in the war (Welcome to a new kind of tension/All across the alienation, everything isn’t meant to be OK).
The second track introduces us to the suburbs of America: "A land of make believe/That don’t believe in me." The five part, nine minute "Jesus of Suburbia/City of the Damned/I Don’t Care/Dearly Beloved/Tales From Another Broken Home" is about a teenager becoming disillusioned with the fabricated, contained and empty suburban life and runs away. The poetry of City and the slam of I Don’t Care ("We are the kids of war and peace/From Anaheim to the Middle East") illustrate the crumbling of security in a once ‘perfect’-that is, perfectly manufactured-suburban town.
"Holiday" is my favourite song from American Idiot and one of my all time favourite tracks. About the U.S invasion of Iraq, and their ignoring of the UN order to not invade, this has some truly great lines:
The company lost the war today
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
Pulverise the Eiffel Tower, who criticised your Government!
An absolute classic protest song, followed by another broken hearted, anti-suburbia rage: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", which became the biggest radio staple off the album. Its theme of loneliness and disconnection with the rest of the world, along with its powerful, stuttering riff, would become instantly recognisable all over airplay.
The fifth track, Are We The Waiting, finishes the political side of the album. Are We The Waiting is a chorus for the masses, with emotive music and a massive anthem of a chorus. Not long either, so its very easy to listen to. Finishes as a plead, yet a hopeful beg, for the future of America.
Between St Jimmy and Letterbomb, the inspiration is thinner, particularly in She's A Rebel/Extraordinary Girl. The bratty punk rocket St Jimmy and Give Me Novocaine still deliver musically.
"Wake Me Up When September Ends", the fourth radio hit off the album, is often mistaken for simply a song about the death of Billy Joe’s father. It is a touching, important tribute to the victims of 9/11, that preserves a love of America for the album.
The second rhapsody on the album is the six part Homecoming/The Death of St Jimmy/East 12th St/Nobody Likes You/Rock n Roll Girlfriend/We’re Coming Home Again. This song is made up of many ideals and tones that are not linked, suggesting a hurricane of emotions blurring and whirring as ‘St Jimmy’ casts off his alter ego, maybe returns home, maybe makes his life whole again. The final part suggests a reunification of everyone involved, and maybe a call for the end of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The final song, Whatsername, is dedicated to the girl that was seen and never seen again. Actually a really good finisher, not a cliché or a soppy emotional song.
Overall, I am prepared to call American Idiot an excellent, brave album.