|Green Day - American Idiot|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 21 September 2004|
While there has been much said about Green Day’s latest, there is no doubt that American Idiot is one of the best albums of the year and clearly one of the group’s best efforts overall. The term rock opera has been thrown around with much glee and abandon concerning this release, and while American Idiot is clearly one major story, it is less operatic than say, Quadrophenia. It is also a bit more accessible in terms of overall production, for even though there are a few nine-minute songs and a lot of the other ones meld into each other, as frontman Billie Joe Armstrong says, “You can listen to this record like you would one of our short-attention-span records.”
Focusing on a central character who leaves the suburbs for the city and then meets a bad seed who calls himself St. Jimmy, American Idiot portrays the frustrations and plight of the average American, with more than a few not-so-subtle potshots taken at the current state of the U.S. government. At once evocative, mature, silly and most of all fun, this is by far Green Day’s most consistent and enjoyable album since Dookie. While Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool may not consider themselves old timers, they have been around for over 13 years and while the album still sounds like Green Day, it is a more refined version in terms of lyrics, music and performance. I’ve heard a few complaints of, “They sound exactly the same,” and while they do sound like Green Day, they have little resemblance to the guys who used to hammer away in the dregs of Oakland in the early ‘90s in terms of their ability to vary from track to track and their increasing prevalence of what could loosely be called ballads. Additionally, they have obviously matured as both people and performers, able to do more interesting and complex things with their music while maintaining the attitude and simplicity that got them started in the first place.
“American Idiot” starts off the album with a catchy and straightforward slam on rednecks, the media and others I won’t name. The album really takes its heart and soul from the nine-minute, five-part “Jesus of Suburbia,” which really establishes the mixed tonality of the album, from angry punk to playfully bouncy. It’s also the song that sets the stage of middle America, where the album plays out, with 7-11s, homeless children, mental problems and constant media bombardment. Had fans or observers thought that the trio was angry before, it’s nothing compared to “Zieg Heil to the president gasman/bombs away is your punishment/pulverize the Eiffel towers/who criticize your government.”
What marks this album is its fullness of texture, both lyrically and musically. Also, they’re just so pissed off that you can’t help but get into it, no matter what your politics. While Armstrong sometimes shifts into a sort of faux-Brit voice, his vocals add more musically then in the past and Dirnt and Cool do well not only with their backing vocals (including a bunch of cool harmonizing) but with their own stints as lead vocalists. Cool’s bit on the five-part “Homecoming,” which wraps the album up in the same way that “”Jesus of Suburbia” started it, is particularly enjoyable. While Green Day has always championed the working class (they still fly Southwest), who knew that they were going to try and be so responsible about it? Believe the hype and press and give this album a listen. It’s not perfect, but it sure is a whole lot of good times.