Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Green Day - American Idiot

Writing about the pre- and post-American Idiot eras of Green Day in the previous post got me thinking about how people view Green Day these days... all the cries of "sellout" and statements of "only liking their older stuff" that generally accompany the mere mention of their name.

I should say this now. I am a Green Day fanboy, without a doubt. They were the first real band that I got into, before them it was all select tracks from the NOW That's What I Call Music comps and various soundtracks. So even if I don't necessarily like every single song they've ever written, I am usually quick to jump to their defense.

While Dookie is usually the "go-to" album for people to say is their favorite Green Day album, I have to admit that Insomniac is probably my all-time favorite. It's just so dark and heavy and the lyrics are very pessimistic... there's just something I really love about it.

Anyway, back to American Idiot. I really enjoy that album. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind or convince them to like it- I know the sound isn't for everyone. That said, it kind of bugs me when people accuse Green Day of "changing their sound" when that album came out. Yes, obviously they did change their sound, but it makes me wonder if these people ever even listened to any other Green Day albums. As I already mentioned, Insomniac was much heavier than Dookie, but generally it was a very similar style of song writing. But what about nimrod? It starts off Green Day-esque enough with Nice Guys Finish Last, but before the album is over you've got a surf instrumental (Last Ride In), harmonica ballad (Walking Alone), quasi-hardcore (Take Back), goofy ska (King for a Day) and the ever-famous acoustic break up song (Good Riddance).  I know some of these songs are associated with "old Green Day" but they're hardly the same sound that they rose to prominence with.

And then there was Warning. That album was pretty much an ode to the Kinks (and a bit of later-day Replacements).

So why was American Idiot singled out for "changing their sound"? Probably due to the mainstream attention. That's generally when and why people hate music. I personally dislike the lack of a distinct bassline on the album (popular examples include Longview and Welcome to Paradise, or live cuts of Minority and King for a Day  but even on lesser known examples like Panic Song or Armatage Shanks have some strong bass parts), but once again, I don't really hate American Idiot.

It was Green Day's "political album" and they were all jumping on the anti-Bush bandwagon. Yes, they definitely were more active in talking anti-Bush policies during their live show, but I wouldn't really go as far as to call it a "political album."  The title track could be seen as critical of the country, and maybe Holiday, but the other 11 tracks are pretty neutral because, you know, it's a rock opera (as evidenced by the musical). The story is pretty typical, kid is fed up with his lifestyle, moves out to the city, gets hooked on drugs, finds a girl, makes a mess of his new lifestyle, goes back home. If anything, the biggest problem with American Idiot is the fact that it can't really be listened to in any order other than the sequencing present on the album because the story is so heavily prevalent in the lyrics.

Oh, you know what else is kind of a problem about American Idiot? A bunch of the tracks (minus the slower tunes) sound a whole lot like Dillinger Four. Not just American Idiot the song (which, at this point everyone should know is really D4's Doublewhiskeycokenoice) but a bunch of the songs use similar riffing and distortion. Remember when Dillinger Four released that split with Pinhead Gunpowder? It could just be a coincidence, but probably not. I don't think it's too far fetched to think that maybe D4 had a big influence on almost every song on the album.

Except She's a Rebel. That one is all Jawbreaker.

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