Thursday, April 07, 2005

Green Day

Green Day- Warning

If memory serves, ‘Warning’ came out on the same day as ‘Kid A.’ The Radiohead record went into heavy rotation; the Green Day album got played maybe three times before being filed away. I guess it’s not so bad in retrospect- Green Day’s songwriting doesn’t really change that much from album to album. Betcha that ‘Warning’ was the stab at like the more adult market or whatever, a more contemporary feel- all of the piss was taken out of the songs, which inexplicably become mostly acoustic in nature. Still the least listened to of their entire discography, a record that’s like the reverse Cal Ripken of my record collection.

Green Day- American Idiot

The original plan had been to do a song-for-song breakdown of all the thefts/homages on ‘American Idiot,’ but then some big glossy magazine diagrammed ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ in their pages, thwarting my great idea. After that was the urge to say the hell with it, do it anyway, and claim ignorance if/when any of my ten readers called me out on the entire thing. I finally decided to pass on the idea, even though the theft of someone else’s idea would have been a fitting review for a record that liberally swipes from any number of sources.

A lot of studio music is theft, I understand, and putting things in a new context. I’ve listened to enough records and have a broad enough background so that I can (and do) sit there and pick stuff out- “okay, this is from ________, this is from _________,” etc. Green Day makes it easy to do so- I mean, Summer of 69, Ring of Fire, the fact that ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is basically an Oasis song with different lyrics.

What makes the whole thing work for me is that these guys, who started off as a punk band (no matter what the haters say), are still throwing little elbows my way to let me know that their fame hasn’t totally changed ‘em. The most obvious declaration is right in ‘American Idiot,’ the first song/single, which says ‘welcome to a new kind of tension’ in the chorus- a neat little nod to the Buzzcocks. ‘American Idiot’ is one of those damn loose quasi-concept records that are the scourge of record reviewers everywhere- do they mean it, or are they just full of shit? Well, lyrical threads run through the record, tying things together more tightly than, say, Husker Du did on ‘Zen Arcade’ (did I just say that the concept on Green Day’s record was more concrete than Husker Du’s? Yes, I did. But the Huskers did it first, so there.) The biggest, and most overlooked, elbow/nod the band has put in their album is in ‘Jesus Of Suburbia,’ the like nine minute song with five different parts and multiple instances of thievery. There’s this one bit that sounds pretty punk, right, all distorto and pissed off, with Billie Joe shouting about how everyone’s full of shit. He slips in this lyric: ‘From the cradle to the grave’- a direct reference to the Subhumans, who had this one like nine minute song with five different parts and lyrics that went like this: ‘from the cradle to the grave.’ Punk rock!

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