Green Day – American Idiot

When you realise that “American Idiot”, Green Day’s best single in the last 10 years, is actually the worst song on the album of the same name you know that the band have released the best album of their career. It’s such a far cry from their Carling Weekend appearance a few weeks ago, which many people couldn’t falter, but from our perspective looked like a band going through the motions. American Idiot may have been touted as their Tommy, but in short it’s just a great rock album which stretches peoples concept of what Green Day are capable of. Like The Offspring and Foo Fighters, Green Day had pigeonholed themselves into a box where the musical climate would change, but every couple of years a new single would come along and it was still archetypal Green Day. The same old tune recycled into an inch of its life, spewed out and lapped up. “American Idiot” shakes off those shackles and embraces influences you wouldn’t even dream of mentioning previously in relation to the band.

“Jesus Of Surburbia”, the first of two 9 minutes epics that bookend the album, highlights this musical vision more than ever. Starting off with Beach Boys west coast pop harmonies of “Jesus Of Surburbia”, moving into “City Of The Damned” which sounds like Elton John covering Bryan Adams “Summer Of 69”, “I Don’t Care” and it’s Andrew WK-isms, “Dearly Beloved” is a direct steal from the Beatles “Help” and “Tales Of Another Broken Home” alternatives between a plaintive ballad and a full on punk explosion. Now sit back and think that this is across just 9 minutes and not a whole album and you realise how much Green Day have ripped up the template. Elsewhere “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” strangely enough takes the folk-rock of “Bellarouse” era Levellers and fuses it with “Cast No Shadow” by Oasis. “Are We The Waiting” starts off with a simplistic drumbeat before launching into a full on football chant.

As a result the more tradition sounding Green Day tracks “She’s A Rebel”, “Letterbomb” and the aforementioned “American Idiot” lack the punch they would do in a normal setting. It’s not that they don’t meet the mark, they’re some of the best tracks the band have ever recorded, but when you’re placing them side by side with a band taking in new directions they simply seem like they’re playing through the motions for 3 minutes.

People have been calling “American Idiot” one of the most audacious efforts in the history of punk and while it’s an adventurous leap into the unknown it doesn’t take the risks the Clash did back in the later 70s. Still “American Idiot” will stand up as possibly the best rock album of 2004.

Alex McCann

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