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Friday, June 17, 2005

Review: Green Day - American Idiot

Our story begins in the present, with a Green Day concert memory from Dr. John down in Florida:

"They had tons of pyrotechnics and shooting flames like an 80's metal show. The whole thing started with someone dressed up in a bunny suit dancing and drinking a beer while the P.A. played Y.M.C.A. and the whole audience danced to it. First time I ever saw guys with Mohawks dance to Y.M.C.A.. They shone the lights on the audience a lot. The really cheezy part, they had this hanging curtain of lights, it didn't come on till after the show, it flashed Green - Day - Green - Day to get the audience to chant Green Day for an encore. As you may remember I chanted 'Day - Green' cause I thought it was so dumb."

Green Day were once another great pop-punk band on Lookout! In that style I liked Sweet Baby a little more and Sludgeworth about the same. Dookie broke in 1994 and their instant fame didn't bother me as much as the fact the record itself wasn't as good as the last two, a real lesson in what defined good to the masses. I stopped paying attention until they released their epic political rock opera American Idiot in 2004, and every article and interview I came across touted their new seriousness and sense of purpose. It won the best rock album at the Grammys. Ten years went by and they put out another Dookie. This time only the lesson changed. Critics will support anything that supports their politics.

Green Day become less adult as they age. They're all about 33 years old but seem stuck at the social and intellectual level of their fan base, which stays the same in real years. This is being compared to Husker Du's masterpiece Zen Arcade, which is true only in that there's no complete story being told, but Zen is for big kids. When Green Day drop the F-Bomb or any of the endless cliches they spit out you expect them to giggle like the Teletubbies and peek around to see if adults heard them be naughty. The lyrics on this album are hysterically bad, as in "Welcome to a new kind of tension. All across the alien nation. Everything isn't meant to be okay. Television dreams of tomorrow..." "New kind of tension" is a Buzzcock album reference, Television City Dreams is the name of a Screeching Weasel album, and alienation an ancient piece of marxist psychobabble. If this album speaks to anyone, that person is not of driving age.

This might be clever if done well but Green Day is not a clever band. They write catchy tunes but are stunted adolescents and write lyrics from that POV. On a production level American Idiot is flawless. Every record should sound this good. Green Day are being credited with creating a complex masterpiece but it's so not true I'm embarrassed for humanity. Songs may shift gear and pace but that's not complexity, it's just shifting gear and pace. Compare it to this and this for some perspective on complexity. Green Day throw in surf, doo-wop, a little Bad Religion pompousness, Jim Steinman, Johnny Cash ("Ring Of Fire" is ripped off), Peter Gabriel's "Biko", the Beatles, African drumming, Hawaiian guitar and the sound of marching feet. Does this make American Idiot an epic masterpiece? Yes, if you don't know any better or lower the scale to fit a non-musical agenda.

Would I like this any more if I didn't think they were immature political 'tards with too much money and free time? Probably not. I like "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" but even if they wrote lyrics I agreed with the rest would still be just another Green Day album, of which there will be a new one each year for many to come.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read in Kerrang! that Billie Joe's fav album is Zen Arcade.

Have you listened to 'Jesus Of Suburbia' a couple of times? Yes they borrow stuff but it's pretty f-ing good. I can listen to this record over and over. So I sez, sez I, let the boys have their props (slang, I believe, for respect).

Love,

Dirtbag

4:34 PM

 
Blogger Emerson said...

Mr. Dirt:

"Jesus Of Suburbia" is their magnum opus and while it has a few parts to it it's not a complex song. I think this is the one where they rip off "Ring Of Fire".

The lyrics are odd, as in "Get my television fix sitting on my crucifix/ The living room or my private womb/ While the moms and brads are away/ To fall in love and fall in debt/ To alcohol and cigarettes and Mary Jane/ To keep me insane and doing someone else's cocaine".

The lyrics are meaningless as a whole but phrases and slogans stick out. I few times on the album they repeat "American Idiot", "Jesus Of Suburbia" and "Jimmy" but I doubt there's a real unified themse, just like there wasn't with Zen Arcade.

Dirt, you can like this album all you want and I hope you enjoy it. I've listened to it 5 times with good headphones. I like other bands way more but don't tell anyone what should be their favorite band.

Thanks for writing though. I like Pinhead Gunpowder more now but every song sounds the same!

4:54 PM

 
Anonymous Chaz said...

I think you summed them up pretty well, catchy tunes but no depth to there lyrics. I read the drummers interview once and he sounded like a 13 year old obssesed with fart jokes.and it was warehouse songs and stories not zen in the issue i had.

8:04 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Trey is smart to be dumb. Which Husker Du album was it again? Warehouse? My trivia memory is so faulty. I blame society.

Love,

Dirt

12:31 AM

 
Blogger Emerson said...

Warehouse Songs And Stories was so bad I traded it in almost immediately. I can see being influenced by Zen Arcade but to say it's Warehouse --- yeesh.

Warehouse is to Husker Du what Oranges and Lemons is to XTC.

3:00 AM

 

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