The title of Green Day’s latest effort, American Idiot, might make one believe that the album is “Green Day as usual.” One can hear many of the same influences present on American Idiot as on Dookie or Kerplunk!, but this album is effectively an introduction to a new Green Day.
The 30-somethings have created a rock-opera, rumored to become a movie à la Tommy. American Idiot begins with the title track, which sounds reminiscent of any Green Day hit. The song bemoans the mass media as a force misinforming and controlling its consumers. This loathing of media, government and war in Iraq is the established background for the tale.
Green Day introduces a young boy whose father leaves in “Tales of Another Broken Home.” This mini-song is included in the larger piece, “Jesus of Suburbia,” totaling nearly nine minutes. As the boy grows, so does his distaste for the American Idiot nation surrounding him. Billie Joe Armstrong, in a voice that continues to grow in strength and clarity, sings of walking “a lonely road … alone,” in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
Falling into depression and cahoots with the neighborhood drug dealer, “St. Jimmy,” for comfort, the boy discovers “Whatshername.” Introduced in “She’s a Rebel,” Whatshername is a “saint … the salt of the earth … holding [his] heart like a hand grenade,” evidenced in cover art.
Eventually becoming what he hates, the American Idiot has a “Homecoming,” leaving Whatshername behind for less worthy women. After his transformation into a schmuck, he still remembers Whatshername, wondering what has become of her, but has “another ex-wife … a kid in New York,” and a “kid in the Bay.”
The pathetic tale Green Day weaves effectively describes the world where many American Idiots live. Succinctly they blend these issues into a rock-opera, yet amazingly, leave the listener hopeful. Rhythms and instruments Green Day has never tackled before appear. Songs flow together, yet stand alone. Armstrong’s vocals on “Wake Me Up When September Ends” ring. A new Green Day has emerged. I feel privileged to have discovered this socially conscious group of grown men, taking to task the American Idiot.