Review Summary: Consider this a formal thank-you to the person who stole the records of Cigarettes and Valentines.
With “Warning”, Green Day hit a low point in their careers. The album, while it was good, sold quite poorly, especially for a Green Day album. After that album, the band considered breaking up, Billie Joe later stating that band practices were not going well. However, they pushed through and recorded 20 tracks for an album named “Cigarettes and Valentines”. Then a blessing from Buddha came. The records for that album were stolen, and the band decided to start over, stating that the album was not the band’s best work.
The product was “American Idiot”, Green Day’s magnum opus. The album is a rock opera, which tells the story of Jesus of Suburbia. However, this is not the only change in Green Day’s sound. The band abandoned the conventional style of writing music, instead making music that was much more ambitious and inventive. The greatest attribute of the music on this album, however, is the variety. The album constantly keeps you guessing; no musical changes are predictable or expected.
1. American Idiot- The album kicks off with a bang. Billie Joe plays a riff that is quite soft, then the band comes in and we’re off. It’s clear from the beginning that this album will be different from everything else the band has ever released, mainly because of the lyrics. They are very political, with lines like, “Television dreams of tomorrow. We’re not the one who’re meant to follow,”. The end of the chorus features a great drum fill from Tre Cool. This song sets the background for the storyline, but contains no actual plot. 4/5
2. Jesus of Suburbia- The plot begins here. A 9 minute musical masterpiece, many people consider this to be Green Day’s best song. The song is composed of 5 separate sections. This song contains Tre Cool’s best drumming ever, with some truly mind-blowing fills. This song tells us who the Jesus of Suburbia is: a regular guy who hates the town he lives in (Jingletown) and the people in it. He leaves for the city. I will spare you the details of the song; go listen to it, if you haven’t heard it already. 5/5
3. Holiday- This is the only song on the album to prominently feature bass. The opening riff is incredibly catchy; you’ll be humming it all day long. Besides the bass, this song isn’t incredibly complex, but it still works well, thanks to the structure. In this song, Jesus has gotten to the town and is living in the streets. He’s stating all these things that explain why he’s upset with the world the way it is. This song, as is the case with a few of the tracks on this album, is terribly overplayed. However, it doesn’t detract from the actual quality of the song. 4.5/5
4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams- The feedback at the end of the last song leads directly into this one, when an echoing guitar part comes in. This song is so simple musically, it’s almost criminal. The melody is nice enough, and the lyrics are good, with lines like, “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me,”. Jesus is alone in the streets with his thoughts in this song; he’s getting a bit depressed. This song won the Grammy for best song; I don’t know why, though, considering it’s not even close to being the best song on the album. 4/5
5. Are We The Waiting- This is easily the worst song on the album. It’s just so bland and boring. Jesus starts to go insane in this song. He doesn’t know who he is. This is the third song in a row where Tre is stuck with an incredibly simplistic beat. This track is even worse instrumentally than the last one. However, it works in the course of the album, because, by lulling you, it sets up the next song perfectly. 3/5
6. St. Jimmy- The song opens with some incredibly fast guitar, before the whole band comes in and Tre plays this incredibly fast, interesting beat. This easily the heaviest song on the album; fans who do not like their change in style should still like this song. This song also brings a twist in the plot, because it introduces the character St. Jimmy. He’s a hardcore rebel that roams the streets and does whatever he can to mess with “the system”. Musically, this is a definite highlight. 5/5
7. Give Me Novacaine- My favorite on the album. It starts from an unconventional, but simple beat. Then some melodic, soothing acoustic guitars come in and Billie Joe starts crooning beautifully. Then, the electric guitars come in, and all hell breaks loose. The change is so sudden and unexpected; it’s brilliant. In this song, Jimmy becomes friends with Jesus and introduces him to drugs. Jesus becomes one of Jimmy’s followers. At the end of the song, things get soft again, and the track segues right into the next one. 5/5
8. She’s A Rebel- In this song, Whatsername is introduced. Described by Billie Joe as, “St. Jimmy’s nemesis”, Jesus falls in love with her immediately. She believes in non-violence, though she is also against “the system”, she fights it in a different way. Musically, there is nothing fascinating about the song, though it is structured well. 3.5/5
9. Extraordinary Girl- Out of all the odd things that Green Day tried on this album, the oddest comes in the intro of this song. Opening with an African drum solo, this song epitomizes the change Green Day has made. They can still write melodic, catchy songs, but they also have the ability to experiment successfully. The rest of the song is a typical song in the album. Not much new plot in this track; just more of Jesus describing Whatsername and how much he loves her. 4/5
10. Letterbomb- Another odd intro; this time the song starts out with a falsetto voice singing, “Nobody likes you, everyone left you, they’re all off without you having fun,” This is a letter that Whatsername writes to Jesus, and in this song she breaks up with him because he’s become too much like Jimmy. The lyric “the St. Jimmy is a figment of, your father’s rage and mother’s love, ” indicates that St Jimmy is really only a figment of Jesus’ imagination; he’s not a real person. Musically, this is another one of the heavier ones. The tom-tom work in the intro works quite well; the same can be said for the layered guitars. 5/5
11. Wake Me Up When September Ends- I refuse to let the fact that this song horribly overplayed ruin it for me. The song builds up magnificently, adding little bits and pieces until the entire band jams out. The wonderful structure hides the fact that this song is terribly simplistic instrumentally. In this song, Jesus has lost everything. He is empty on the inside and feels as if he has no purpose anymore. 4.5/5
12. Homecoming- This song is the closing of the story. First, Jimmy commits suicide, which really means that Jesus gets rid of Jimmy from inside of him. Jesus realizes that the city doesn’t offer anything better. He conforms and gets an office job. He gets a note from one of his rebel friends, who details his crazy, awesome life. In the end, Jesus decides to move back to Jingletown. Musically, this song follows the same structure of Jesus of Suburbia, being another 9 minute epic. This one is almost as good, but the dragged out ending gets boring and makes this song just a bit worse than Jesus of Suburbia. 4.5/5
13. Whatsername- This is an epilogue to the story. It takes place a decent number of years later. We find out that that Jesus is living a normal life in Jingletown. He still dreams about Whatsername, still misses her. He is trying to forget her and the pain she put him through, with some success. He doesn’t regret his time in the city, because it was a learning experience. Musically, this is a brilliant album closer. Slow-paced, but not boring, it ends the album like a peck on the cheek. 5/5
This album burst onto the scene when it was released behind the power of its 5 singles. It blew everyone’s mind, and was and still is very controversial. Many Green Day purists hated the change in sound; however, bands, especially punk bands, are eventually going to mature. This is a fact that you have to accept. Green Day matured incredibly; releasing a rock opera with a vivid storyline that doesn't get in the way of the music. Once you do, you can realize the true brilliance of this album.
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