This is technically a repost, but for those interested it’s all in one spot.
2.) Kanye West
4.) Britney Spears
5.) Danger Mouse
6.) The Strokes
8.) Lil Wayne
9.) Green Day
10.) Death Cab For Cutie
In the summer of 2004, I read an article that was previewing what would become American Idiot. It stated that Green Day were working on a rock opera about the state of the nation. One song, the article said, was about 10 minutes long and would contain multiple sections. At the time, it seemed quite ridiculous. Green Day, was after all a band that sang about masturbating and smoking weed. And who knows, maybethey sang about doing both of those activities at the same time. Green Day were a good band, a fun band. Billie Joe Armstrong might have borrowed Joe Strummer’s snarl (and occasionally the accent), St. Joe he was not. During a drunken night, I told one of my friends about the alleged 10 minute song I read about in the article. “Shut the fuck up, Matt,” He told me with a bit of disdain. “Next, ever speak of this again.” Afterall, who would want to listen to Green Day’s thought on the state of the nation?
As it turned out, Green Day would prove the skeptics wrong. American Idiot, would end up becoming one of the defining albums of the era in part because many of its song were protests against the War In Iraq. While there plenty of artists making statements and complaining about the war, they seemed to be few and far between. And it wasn’t just the Dixie Chicks who got some shit. Dozens of fans walked on a Pearl Jam concert in 2003 when Eddie Vedder sang the anti-Bush song, “Bushleaguer”. If artists were speaking out against the war, they certainly weren’t doing it on the radio. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief didn’t receive much play, Neil Young’s Greendale only spoke to his devoted fans, and Conor Oberst was too much of a niche artist at the time to make any impact. But when “American Idiot” came blaring on the radio in the summer of 2004, it suddenly became clear that Green Day were no longer trying to be The Clash. They were The Clash for this generation. When Armstrong suggested that ” Everybody do the propaganda and sing along to the age of paranoia” it was a rallying cry to wake people up. And if the lyrics didn’t cover that ground, the sonic assault of the song was just as arresting.
While many of the songs are a protest agains the War in Iraq, making no pretense about the band’s stance, it’s also much more than that. In a decade where everything seemed to teeter out of control from every direction. “Hey can you hear the hysteria?” Armstrong asks. But then he takes it one step further – “The subliminal mind-fuck, America.” Somehow Green Day managed to tap into the cultural zeitgeist – a fusion of anger and disillusionment. It was an era where many seemed destined to “fall in love or fall in debt” .
Of course, Armstrong’s instincts and intentions would mean as much if the songs on American Idiot weren’t good. The aforementioned 10 minute song, “Jesus of Suburbia” combined punk and elements of prog-rock. Amazingly the 5 pieces of the songs fit together perfectly, and the result became of the band’s best songs. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with that weird feed-back loop managed to be the successful song on the album. The band managed to cover a lot of ground, without missing a step. The lyrics may have the focal point of the album, but their content also never got in the way of a good rock song. Which American Idiot was full off.
American Idiot brought back some of the spirit of the 60s and 70s – when music actually meant something, that it could be a catalyst for change. If a group that previously known for being dumbass stoners ends up releasing the album that best sums up what it was like to live in the mid 2000s, I’m not sure whether Green Day deserve even more credit than they already have, or if I should point a shameful finger at others for not stepping up.
(And for those who might suggest I’m only basing this off of one album, The Sex Pistols only had one album as well.)
According to an article on radio station DC101, a “new magazine” put out a list of the list of the top 10 best bands ever. Note that the name of the magazine wasn’t listed, and that the article doesn’t state whether it was a reader’s poll or a staff pick. Either way, I’m pretty sure I won’t be reading this “new magazine”. It’s a terrible list.
Here’s the list according to the article:
1. The Beatles
2. Led Zeppelin
4. The Cars
6. Green Day
9. Rolling Stones
10. Motley Crue
Personally, I think there’s only two bands which deserve to be there – and I’ll leave you to guess which ones.
What are your top 10 bands?
Like Weezer, Green Day was big in 1994 and they’re still around. While Weezer never made a single as good as “Undone” again, Green Day grew up ten years later and took on the state of the nation with American Idiot. But their singles from Dookie, are still damn good pop-punk singles – ones that an entire generations of bands have been trying to copy for years without succeeding.
For me, “Longview” is the best of these songs from Dookie-era Green Day. Like “Undone”, “Longview” plays with the standard soft verse/loud chorus: the verses have no guitar, just drums and the now famous bass line. “Longview” is perhaps rock greatest ode to boredom – a feeling many teenagers could easily relate to. Billie Joe (who would later turn into the greatest frontman of his generation) sounds convincing in his boredom. He turns on the TV, “but nothing’s on”, yet still watches it for “an hour or two.” So what’s he to do to cure his boredom? Masturbate, of course. As his sexual urges take over, the song literally takes off and explodes. The song hasn’t been totally quiet until this point, but the production here is great – the band literally rushes out of the speakers as Billie Joe is taken “away to paradise”.
Lack of motivation never sounded as glorious as it does in the bridge. Where has all the motivation gone? “Smoking my inspiration!” He declares. Notice that he doesn’t suggest that he’s smoking his inspiration away. This lack of inspiration and motivation doesn’t seem to bother him. In fact he’s going to let you know that he doesn’t give a shit what you think – “Call me pathetic call me what you will”.
“Longview” was one of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio where not just one, but several words were edited out. At the age of 12 or 13 that made it more appealing. As a teenager, you’re often bored and you’re don’t know why. Other acts at the time may have viewed boredom as a sign of depression and loneliness. “Longview” is a funny, yet true view of being bored when you have no idea what to do. It doesn’t pretend to be about anything less or more.
(Note: This post should have come before “Everything Zen” – I thought I had published it and it wasn’t until I put up the post on “Everything Zen” that I realized my mistake.)
1994 is the first year where I really remember listening to the radio, and picking up on current musical trends. I was 12 going on 13, discovering myself through the radio. Kurt Cobain may have just killed himself that summer, but that fall the sounds of Weezer, Bush, Green Day, and Live were finding their way to my ears.
Previously I had relied on my siblings musical tastes. Whatever they listened to, was what I listened to and thought was good. While I certainly prided myself on my preferences in school, I found out that no one in classes was talking about U2. “Basket Case” was the rage, and kids sang all the words to Beck’s “Loser” on field-trips. Coming back from a school musical, the radio constantly played Beastie Boy’s “Sabotoge” – a song that seemed to come from outer-space on a mission to blow up the speakers and my mind.
Everything on the radio was loud and exciting. Masturbation was sung frankly in Green Day’s “Longview”, Gavin Rossdale reflected upon his “asshole brother” in Los Angeles. I was too young to get the joke about “Happy Days” in the video for Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”, but I laughed hysterically about Rivers Cuomo inviting someone to destroy his sweater in “Undone (The Sweater Song)”. Even R.E.M. (my favorite band at the time) cranked up the amps with “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, declaring “don’t fuck with me” at the end of the song.
Looking back, 1994 really was a good year in music. It was the era in between grunge and the new-wave ska revival (which was a very strange time in music, I think.)
Even though a lot of these songs aren’t on the same caliber as a lot of other stuff I listen to now, I still enjoy them and they take me back to my 12-13 year old self. And that’s what this week’s theme is all about.
I was pretty excited to read that Foxboro Hot Tubs (aka Green Day plus a couple of other dudes) recently played a secret show in New York. I’ve always been a big fan of Green Day, especially American Idiot. After the American Idiot-era ended for the band, I stated to one of my friends that Green Day should do a dirty rock and roll album next. I was partially right – they released that album Stop Drop and Roll!! under the Foxboro Hot Tubs moniker. But as Green Day, they released the follow-up to Idiot with the subpar 21st Century Breakdown. 21st Century isn’t particularly bad – it just takes the worst parts of American Idiot without bringing the quality of songs that made that album a classic. And now American Idiot is a musical on Broadway. A while back, I stated my thoughts on the American Idiot musical. For the moment it seems band that got big singing about masturbation and getting high, things are entirely too serious.
Which is why I’m glad that Foxboro Hot Tubs are back – or at the very least, Green Day haven’t forgotten about being ridiclious. Stop Drop and Roll!! isn’t meant to change the world. It’s dirty garage rock that could have easily been made in the mid 1960’s – most of the inspiration seems to come from 60’s British garage rock. Unlike a lot of other modern-day garage rock bands (The Strokes and The White Stripes I’m looking at you) Stop Drop and Roll!! doesn’t try to authenticate itself and present itself as the savior of rock and roll. By choosing that route, Foxboro Hot Tubs by accident created perhaps the best garage-rock album of the decade. Every song is filled with killer hooks, and chunky guitar riffs taken from classic early singles by The Who and The Kinks. It’s everything that 21st Century Breakdown is not, and is all the better for it. I’m all for changing the world through music, but even Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan know how to have to fun sometimes.
Check out “Mother Mary”:
Just like my earlier post about Bono and the Edge writing the music for the Spiderman Musical (Turn Off The Dark) I’m not too keen on the idea of an American Idiot musical. Does anyone remember the Tommy movie? One of the worst things to happen to rock music. I have nothing against Broadway musicals, but rock and Broadway does not mix well – they’re entirely two different mediums. Rock music is meant to be performed in front an audience by musicians, not by a cast. It loses the spontaneous element that makes rock and roll exciting. In a Broadway show there are no stage-dives, no ad-libbing or connection with the audience.
As great as American Idiot was, its power relied on the actual songs and not the narrative. Each individual songs summed up a moment in time and the best (“Jesus of Suburbia”, “Holiday”, “Extraordinary Girl”) expressed the rage and anger many of us felt in the early 2000s. I have serious doubt that those feelings will be transferred onto a Broadway stage.
Most of the really good concept albums (Ziggy Stardust, Srgt Pepper, The Who Sell Out, etc) lose their plot half-way along the way. This is something that I feel bought down Green Day’s follow-up 21st Century Breakdown. There was too much emphasis on a narrative, and not nearly as much on the actual songs. The “big songs” sounded bloated, and the punky songs had no lasting quality of those on American Idiot.
On one hand, I am happy that an anti-Bush album has gone mainstream, but it still feels kind of shallow.