Monday, October 11, 2004

Green Day
American Idiot
Reprise Records

There's nothing new I can say that hasn't already been said about the "concept album". It's certainly something that has gained popularity in the last couple of years. Cursive, Mike Skinner (The Streets), and The Fiery Furnaces have all had successful goes at it. Hell, Coheed and Cambria's entire existence is based on a "concept" of sorts. So, it's no surprise that the trend has now eeked its way into the mainstream.

Unlike this idea of the concept album, Green Day has, in all probability, LOST popularity in this new century. It's been several years since their last album, and God knows how many years since their last, genuine hit. So you can't really blame front man, Billie Joe Armstrong for taking an objective look at the industry, and playing a rather ballsy hand. In doing so, he has written, maybe the least accessible record in Green Day's entire catalogue. However, just because you follow a popular trend, of course, doesn't necessarily give you any sort of credibility to stand with the champions of said medium. Needless to say, you're work must speak for itself.

That being said, Green Day's self proclaimed punk rock opera, "American Idiot" is, with out a doubt, the most solid album of their career. It is a calculated, yet frustrating and ultimately satisfying journey through genres and mindsets that never fails to keep your attention. Rough around the edges as it is, it's vision, it's grandness, even it's imperfections add to it's overall cohesiveness(not to mention, charm)...if that makes sense. The lyrics, as admittedly unpolished as they may be, speak to my old suburban punk soul and the hooks, the beats, the shifts and melodies make me happy in a way I haven't been in a very long time while listening to this genre.

As expected, there have been many comparisons made between "American Idiot", and The Who's classic rock opera "Tommy". While we shouldn't get carried away here, I must admit that there are similarities. Not only in structure, but also in tone, and the way that the group has collectively grown as song writers. On tracks like the nearly genius, nine minute opus, "Jesus of Suburbia", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", and the equally powerful "Homecoming", Green Day, maybe for the first time carry heavy sociological, and political messages about this nation of ours, particularly after September 11. As we follow Billie Joe's story of forgotten, and frustrated American youth, we grow to care, and associate with these characters.

To clarify, like I have said, the album isn't perfect by any means. As per usual, some of the more substandard lyrical efforts are cringe-worthy, and a few songs are just your regular standard fare. However, the energy of the more memorable tracks make up for the somewhat uneven effort. Through most of the album we get a nice sampling of The Ramones, The Clash, The Damned and most notably the Buzzcocks. There's a very old school punk overtone to most of the disc, which I found, not only fitting, but comforting. That's not to say, however that the album is without variety, or even innovation.

In the end, "American Idiot" reveals itself as a rather bitter-sweet ideological allegory that's influence may span for years to come. It is a challenging , and important album that, if given the chance, can actually speak to us and say something useful for a change. I honestly never thought that I would say something like that regarding a Green Day album.

No comments: