'i luv all kindz of music its my life. i rly like hiphop rnb pop (paris hilton rulz! n dance. i dont rly like rock but stuff like Green day is ok. i hate hate hate the heavy metal!!"
cking hate reading things like that. I came across a random last.fm while browsing through the top fans of some artists I like, and came across a seventeen year old American girl who had written that as her info. Personally, I think it's irritating enough for someone to claim to "love music," yet be completely ignorant of its basic principles. I have no problems with Britney Spears
, or Jessica Simpson
, or even Paris Hilton
(as an artist, not as a person), but when someone resigns themselves to listen to these (and other similar artists) all through the day and night, I find it rather hard to take their opinion seriously. The same goes for anyone, who would label Green Day as "rock." Anyone who would do that basically comes off of the generalization that anything with a guitar is automatically rock music. Never mind that punk and pop-punk are hardly unknown genres, to people all around the world Green Day are a rock band, and the greatest one of all time. Most of this comes on the coattails the group’s latest studio album, the startlingly ambitious "punk rock opera" that is American Idiot
While Green Day have always been a good band, and American Idiot
is a good album, it certainly bred an awful lot of…well, pure idiocy. For example, you can now find Myspaces, LiveJournals, TagWorlds, or any other kind of internet vanity page or blog, to be littered with descriptions of musical taste no unlike the one you’ve read above. Some are better, most are worse. Who's to blame for this? Certainly not Green Day. How were they to know that American Idiot
would become the sensation that it is today? Who could have possibly envisioned that what started as a friendly competition in the wake of demo tape theft would become a worldwide revolution of sorts? Green Day sure as hell didn't. In the words of front man/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong (who, incidentally, has become a new sex symbol for young girls every where in the aftermath of American Idiot
), "One day, Mike [ bassist Mike Dirnt ] was at the studio and he wrote a thirty-second song. I don't know, I liked it so I wanted to do one too. The one that I did, I connected to his and then Tré [ drummer Tré Cool] did one and he connected it to mine and so on and so forth until we had about ten minutes. It was just purely out of having a good time." Such impromptu jam sessions were the start of a series of brainstorming that was accentuated by the theft of a set of master tapes from a planned album.
The result, as the world knows, was American Idiot
. Often misconstrued (and ridiculed) as an "Anti-Bush" sentiment of the band and the American public, the album, while containing political undertones, is actually a metaphorically conceptual story of the a young boy named Jimmy. Hailing from Jingle Town, USA, Jimmy develops something of an alter-ego in the Jesus of Suburbia, which causes him to strike out on his own to The City. Once reaching the lonely confines of The City, Jimmy realizes that his persona of the Jesus of Suburbia is a façade. In true schizophrenic fashion, Jimmy develops yet another opposite to himself, the charismatic St. Jimmy. It is around this time that Jimmy's world comes crashing down upon him, as he falls deeply and forlornly in love with Whatshername. Driven to near-suicide by his desperate lust for Whatshername, and seemingly hopeless drug addictions, Jimmy snaps back to reality, and makes the regretful trek back to the sanctity (and sanity) of Jingle Town. While this isn’t an official interpretation of the story, it is the one that the band themselves hint at as being the truth, and will probably be what you see on the silver screen upon the release of the American Idiot
The confusing tale of hopelessness, helplessness and masochism is told brilliantly through the lyrics on American Idiot
. Green Day played equal parts in the songwriting on the album, so fusions of ideas are highly prevalent, and make for an interesting listen. American Idiot
is essentially one giant metaphor, and that's blatantly obvious from song to song. The instrumentation, as you may expect, is typically pop-punk (or more to point, typically Green Day). The band are often criticized for the lack of complexity shown in the music on American Idiot
. Well, such people obviously need a crash course in punk. I can’t remember the last time the genre or any of its subsidiaries was renowned for its technically proficient virtuosos. This is pop-punk, people. It isn’t intended to be mind-numbingly well-structured. It's meant to be fun. That said, Green Day basically bring their typical strategy to the musicianship on American Idiot
, only they add an operatic, almost arena-esque twist to it. Rocking power chords and simple yet effective guitar solos from Armstrong, mesh with the rumbling low end bass of Mike Dirnt and the booming crash of Cool's skins. Experimentation with new sounds and effects allows Green Day to cast an atmospheric mood to American Idiot
, one that is absolutely essential for a concept album.
opens with the now-iconic guitar riff of its title track. "American Idiot," the song, was the initial reason for its accompanying album's success, being the lead single. The raw, slightly-tampered with vocals of Armstrong break in proclaiming the timeless lyrics that resonate all stereotypical ideals of the 21st century citizen, singing "Don’t wanna be an american idiot!"
. The song rocks through its paces right up to the barebones guitar solo, setting a resounding mood on what’s to come. "American Idiot" is the overture of a brilliantly demented take on the angst that riddles the youth of the world today, whether it be the truth or not. The album shows its true colors with the five-movement, nine minute pop-punk epic of "Jesus of Suburbia." Featuring some of the best lyrics on the album, "Jesus" spills out most of the story's initial plot, including the introduction of Jimmy and the Jesus, as evidenced by the tracks title. The typical guitar/bass/drums formula of Green Day is bolstered by a selection of electronics and piano lines, that not only flesh out the track on the whole, but add a sense of depth and meaning not usually found in this type of music. "Jesus of Suburbia" is a near-perfect example of how progressive pop-punk can be, and it’s one of the best and most risky gambles that I"ve ever heard pay off.
Green Day appeases their straightforward fans again with "Holiday," one of American Idiot
's most successful tracks. The raucous opening guitar lines are overlain immediately by Armstrong’s voice singing the sing-a-long lines of "Hear the sound of the falling rain/Coming down like an Armageddon flame/The shame the ones who died without a name"
combined with the collective shouts of "hey" from his band mates. "Holiday" is one of the best pop songs on American Idiot
, and should definitely be heard (though not overplayed, as radio stations have an unfortunate tendency to do with songs from the album). The sullen "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is another American Idiot
mega-smash. Having the most serious context of any song thus far, in comes in sharp contrast to its predecessor, the uplifting "Holiday." This is mostly due to the song's place in the continuum of the album’s story, being the discovering of Jimmy that The City is a cold and unforgiving place, as well as being the bridge between the destruction of the Jesus of Suburbia and the creation of St. Jimmy. From the delayed introduction riffs to the "I walk a lonely road…"
lyrics, "Boulevard" is nothing you’ve never heard before. Still, for being one of Green Day’s most well-written and well-composed songs, it deserves the recognition its received (though maybe to not such a radically obsessive degree).
"Are We the Waiting" is another serious song, continuing along the semi-depressing path of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." A soul searching song, one that leads to the destruction of the Jesus of Suburbia, "Are We the Waiting" is probably the first to connect with the tortured-souls amongst our society, the demographic that American Idiot
's plot and composition hints at Green Day trying to reach. "Are We the Waiting" isn't as good as "Boulevard" and is far too short to be considered anything more than a bridge between one plot device and another. In other words, it's a bloated piece of filler. "St. Jimmy" brings back the poppy sounds, only with a chaotic, almost rancorous twist. The new being who occupies Jimmy's mind compares himself to Edgar Allen Poe, an idea which is never fully exploited based on his following actions. "St. Jimmy" is a fun song, that, like "Are We the Waiting," feels like a lackluster comparative to an earlier track (this time, that being "Holiday"). "Give Me Novacaine" is the beginning of Jimmy's drug addictions, and is well-expressed in song forum. "Give Me Novacaine" switches from decidedly subtle, to brash and overly confident at a moments notice, being driven by the slide guitar lines and ethereal vocals of Armstrong. Cool shines on this song, keeping his drumming as "cool" as his surname would imply. "Give Me Novacaine" falls apart on itself after the guitar solo, much like the album it’s contained on does roughly from this point on.
Whatshername is introduced in "She's A Rebel," which, like "St. Jimmy" is a relatively simple song whose main goal is to introduce a new character. The marginally catchy pseudo-chorus saves this from being a total loss, but it's still filler by any other name. "Extraordinary Girl," begins with an African percussionist twist, but soon breaks into a fairly generic instrumentation. The utterly inane lyrics will almost make you want to question if this is the same Green Day now that performed on the album's beginning. "Extraordinary Girl" cheats you into thinking that it’s something special, as you constantly wait for it to get better. Unfortunately (but not completely unexpectedly), it never does. The curious "Letterbomb" is a good step up in quality from the two previous tracks, as it retains a certain sense of anthem-laden pride. "Letterbomb" has an almost grunge-like sound to it, which is certainly interesting, considering that this is Green Day. Musical experimentation is fairly reserved on American Idiot
, but when it makes an appearance, it certainly adds a refreshing spin to things. "Letterbomb" is the prime example of this.
"Wake Me Up When September Ends," one of the simplest songs on American Idiot
is actually not related in any way to the plot. The song is actually based off of the tale of Billie Joe Armstrong's father, a military man. "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is a beautiful, albeit repetitive example of Green Day's songwriting talent. From the sounds of "falling stars," to the distant acoustic guitar, all of which eventually breaks into a full out electric wall of noise with a drum beat, "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is one of American Idiot
's strongest tracks, and a definite must-listen. The five part “Homecoming” actually continues the grunge-esque themes of "Letterbomb," which provides another interesting change for American Idiot
as it concludes. The song works through its movements at a steady pace, proving to be a fine listen, but not as engaging as the care-free sounds of "Jesus of Suburbia." You'll probably want "Homecoming" to end long before it does, which is never a good quality for a lengthy "epic" to have. American Idiot
comes to it's end with the fairly horrible "Whatshername." In all honestly, Green Day should’ve ended the album with "Homecoming" and put "Wake Me Up When September Ends" in this slot. Not only does the song leave ridiculous loose ends for the plot, it also featured pull-your-hair-out in frustration lyrics and music. Such a disappointing end to an otherwise great album.
Green Day seem to have succeeded in whatever the hell they were trying to do with American Idiot
. Considering the fact that it's sold thirteen million plus copies worldwide (meaning it’s set to overtake their 1994 major label debut Dookie
at fifteen million) and has racked up everything from MTV awards to Grammy's, I'd say it’s a job well done. When you mix in the fact that American Idiot
was spawned from an accident of sorts, then it makes things that much more impressive. Is the album the greatest thing ever? No, it's far from it. Is it the most over-hyped album ever? It is, at least, for the new millennium. American Idiot
is fine album aside from it's forgettable conclusion, and one that I recommend everyone should hear. Of course, you’ll do that every time you turn on a radio, whether you like it or not.