REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/13/2008
"The Jesus Of Suburbia is a lie." This is just one of the many provocative verses from Green Day's brilliantly titled seventh studio album, American Idiot, co-produced by Rob Cavallo. In the course of fifty-seven thrilling minutes, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong also rails against our government, the media, and the giant corporations that seem to control everything. As left-leaning as many of Green Day’s messages may be, you would never find any of the Democrats being so honest about the current state of our nation.
Snarling punks, rebel rockers and folk singers have all had a long tradition of putting socially conscious themes in their songs, going all the way back to the days of the Sex Pistols, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Green Day is obviously the chosen one to carry on this fine tradition into our New Millennium. Music fans and teenagers have been hungry for an album like American Idiot to come along, an album that attempts to give a voice to the voiceless. Surprisingly, it is the slow songs that resonate the most, even capturing the attention of radio programmers and the Academy of Arts & Sciences. As a reflection on the after-effects of 9/11, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is arguably the most important song to come out in the last twenty years. And even though it was overplayed, “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” was the perfect choice for Record Of The Year because it is an anthem for the disenfranchised. The roaring title track also blazes a trail for us malcontents to follow.
Not only did this album go straight to #1, but Green Day’s tour was an instant sell-out and was a must-see in the summer of 2004. Just hearing the crowds sing along to “Are We The Waiting” was worth the price of admission. A film documentary of the tour itself, Bullet In A Bible, was released the following year, which was shown by some daring movie theaters across the country. Though I wish they had performed the gargantuan epic “Homecoming,” Green Day did play the other challenging multi-parter of theirs, “Jesus Of Suburbia.” Such impressive works prove that sometimes you need to look no further than your own backyard if you want to find some great material to write about.
With the electro-shock provided by the majority of raucous rock tunes to be found on American Idiot, it may come as a surprise to find a few slow-ish love songs thrown in for good measure. Hint: they are the ones that have titles referring to the opposite sex: “She’s A Rebel,” “Extraordinary Girl” and “Whatsername.” The two tracks that form the center of the album are perhaps the ones that sound most like the Green Day of old: “St. Jimmy” is an extra-fast and straightforward punk ditty, while the amateurish “Give Me Novacaine” can’t seem to find one tempo to settle on. The other eleven songs are like nothing the band has ever done before, showing the world that Green Day has finally come of age. Finding oneself has never sounded so good.