American Idiot

Green Day

Reprise, 2004

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


Let me be clear: the latest Green Day release, American Idiot, has little to do with the previous releases from this band. This time around, this band is a more sophisticated trio, one that has worked, I mean worked to create a CD that will stand the test of the time. Fans and non-fans will appreciate the dedication of the band's craft. The intricate details that have been included here are awe-inspiring. This is barely a punk CD -- it transcends musical genres and melts them together into a powerful experience.

Sure, it's the same members (guitar/vocals by Billie Joe Armstrong, bass/vocals by Mike Dirnt, and drums/vocals by Tre Cool), the same type of punk rock that made "Basket Case" and "Longview" radio smashes. And it even has a slower "ballad" that will remind listeners of "Time of Your Life" -- but this is a smarter Green Day release. The songwriting is more precise, the attitude a lot more refined, and the music is at a higher level of sophistication.

To clear things up, it took many listens for me to understand that this is a concept album in the sense that all of these songs tell a story. That isn't nearly as important to me as the quality of the music. What stands out for me is the way the longer tracks like "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming" have multiple styles within the same song.

"Jesus of Surburbia" starts out as a straight-forward punk song with an odd 1950s rock vibe. Then "City of the Damned" slips into a riff that sounds like Motley Crue's "On with the Show." Lyrically, Billie Joe Armstrong is smarter, introducing the next part of the song with the lyrics "No one seems to care." That sets up the aggressive rocker "I Don't Care," my favorite part of this track. With the distorted vocals and the simplistic guitar riff/drum beat, this is the closest the band will come to its sound on previous releases. Then "Dearly Beloved" begins with a different vibe. Armstrong asks, "Am I retarded / or am I just overjoyed." The drums and bass lock in together. Then the vibe shifts again for the final "act" of this track called "Tales of Another Broken Home." At just over 9 minutes, this is the band's "Stairway to Heaven," perhaps the highlight of their career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And that's only track 2.

This is one of those CDs that will compel you to listen to it again and again. The concept of the CD takes a while to understand -- it's not as evident as on Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime where you immediately know what's going on. That makes this concept CD a more intellectually stimulating piece of work.

Without getting into the storyline, which I believe you will have to interpret for yourself, there are tracks that stand out from the whole. The haunting "Wake Me Up When September Ends" makes me think of the horrific 9/11 tragedy with the lyrics "The innocent can never last." It fits into the storyline of the CD, but it's not about that event because Armstrong sings "Seven years has gone so fast." It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that it has not been seven years since 2004. Personal interpretation makes this song that much more powerful to me. The next track "Homecoming" is another five-part track that is slightly longer than "Jesus of Surburbia" and with just as many different feels.

The final track "Whatshername" begins as a low-key conclusion to this CD before becoming a rocker. Armstrong is introspective when he sings "I made a point to burn all of the photographs . . ./ . . . I can remember the face but I can't recall the name / Now I wonder how whatshername has been . . . / . . .If my memory serves me right / I'll never turn back time." The song serves as a conclusion to the story being told throughout the CD with a powerful conclusion.

American Idiot will be remembered as the Green Day's finest hour. It has power, intelligence, and charisma. There are riffs on this CD that will haunt you at 3 AM because they are that damn good. If you can chip away at the complex story line and come to a deeper understanding, good for you. I found that the story became secondary. I don't know how they will pull off this material live, whether they'll perform the songs from start to finish like Slayer's "raining blood" concert tour or if they will pick and choose what they think will translate into a great song in concert. This is one of the finest releases in 2004.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


© 2004 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.