Lately, it seems that being political has become the music cloak-de-jour for everyone to swathe themselves in. Be it artists such as Bruce Springsteen or Dave Grohl showing their support for presidential candidates at concerts and rallies, or albums from artists such as Steve Earle or NOFX, or even the efforts of certain individuals, such as NOFX’s Fat Mike, to get people interested in voting thanks to the punkvoter.com website, it’s very hard not to encounter the subject of politics in music these days.
One might accuse Green Day of being a Johnny-come-lately to this recent trend with their latest release, American Idiot. However, that isn’t entirely fair to the Southern California trio. The group has worked with non-profit groups such as Food Not Bombs in the past and leadman Billie Joe Armstrong has been known to take shots at modern life and American society both in Green Day and with co-op side band Pinhead Gunpowder. Green Day is a group that has always had something to say, yet people weren’t always willing to take them seriously. On American Idiot, Green Day are trying very hard to make their voices heard in a world that has changed very drastically since they arrived on the scene with the multi-platinum hit Dookie 10 years ago.
Surprisingly, they succeed rather well. The title track from the album is also the first song played, and starts the album off by grabbing the listener by the balls and refusing to let go. It also sets the stage for Green Day’s ‘rock opera’, a notion that was worked together with longtime producer and friend Rob Cavallo. Second track ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ is a 9 minute long monster of a track that comes in 5 ‘movements’. While it’s no Madame Butterfly or hell, even ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Green Day’s inventiveness to work within a formula that they have perfected over the years (simple, 3 chord chug-a-lug tunes) shows that they simply aren’t comfortable with treading water and going through the motions over and over.
The rest of the album should please just about any sort of Green Day fan. ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Whatsername’ will satisfy the ‘acoustic’ Green Day fans, while older fans will be happy to know that Tre Cool makes his vocal return on this album, singing out the lyrics to ‘Rock and Roll Girlfriend’. ‘St. Jimmy’ has that angry snarl and would’ve fit in perfectly on Insomniac. In short, there’s something for everyone on this album, and the great thing about it is that they all happen to fit together, as no one particular track sounds all that out of place when compared with another.
What is problematic, though, is the actual storyline of the ‘rock opera’ itself. There seems to be a bit of a lost direction in the story of the album, particularly near the end of the album, and most notably on the second five piece song, ‘Homecoming’. However, it’s not that hard to connect the dots and figure things out by going over the album a couple more times, something that gives American Idiot substance, and makes it distinct from the Bowling For Soups and the ‘predictable’ Good Charlottes of the punk/pop landscape.
The Inside Pulse .::. While it’s not going to have the same impact as The Who’s Tommy did, Green Day’s American Idiot is a fine rock album all it’s own, and is worth checking out. No matter if you’re an elitist ‘indie kid’ slumming for some pop-punk fun, an older fan that wants to get back into the group, or you just want something to stomp your foot along to, American Idiot is for you.