‘American Idiot’ is the seventh studio album from the Californian punk trio, Green Day. The album was produced by longtime collaborator with the band, Rob Cavallo, and was released in the UK on 14th September 2004. This year will be the iconic album’s 10th anniversary and it will be one that is much celebrated as the album saw the second world dominating success for the band becoming a punk classic. The singles taken from the album were: ‘American Idiot’, ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’.
The story of the album: The album is a concept album based around the character Jesus of Suburbia, an anti hero, who hates his hometown and leaves. Later in the album, the main character meets St Jimmy, a punk rock freedom fighter, and Whatsername, who is described as ‘Mother Revolution’ and based on the Bikini Kill song ‘Rebel Girl’. These two characters represent the rage vs. love theme Armstrong wanted to portray. The rest of the story is only loosely told but it goes that St Jimmy commits metaphorical suicide and we discover Jesus is indeed Jimmy. ‘Whatsername’ the final track is also entitled that as it is meant to represent Jesus’ loss of connection with her to the point where he can’t even remember her name.
1. American Idiot
2. Jesus of Suburbia
I. Jesus of Suburbia
II. City of the Damned
III. I Don’t Care
IV. Dearly Beloved
V. Tales of Another Broken Home
4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams
5. Are We the Waiting
6. St. Jimmy
7. Give Me Novacaine
8. She’s a Rebel
9. Extraordinary Girl
11. Wake Me Up When September Ends
I. The Death of St. Jimmy
II. East 12th St.
III. Nobody Likes You (lyrics written by Mike Dirnt)
IV. Rock and Roll Girlfriend (lyrics written by Tré Cool)
V. We’re Coming Home Again
As one of my absolute favourite albums ever this was definitely near the top of the list to be featured as part of my ‘my favourite albums’ series. This was one of those albums that really did change everything for me when it came out back in 2004 I was 13/14 and just starting to discover heavier music and the world of punk. ‘American Idiot’ was an album that I spent so much time listening to I probably could have recited it to you in my sleep. I loved every single thing about it, the story, the characters, the music, the aesthetic. Green Day are a band that became an important figure for many teenagers in the early 90’s when their 3rd album ‘Dookie’ went completely massive making them the biggest band in the world, 10 years later after putting out a couple of mediocre albums and losing their place as respected musicians they put out this political concept album which put them straight back to the top, silencing critics, gaining fans and becoming a voice of a whole new generation for the second time.
Concept albums are tricky to pull off, a lot of bands have tried them and many have failed to really catch people’s attention as they are usually quite complicated, difficult and they need to be listened to from start to finish which especially in this day and age is a big ask from a band. However, though the songs are in the logical order and tell the story of Jesus of Suburbia and his encounters with Whatsername and St. Jimmy, you can take songs away as a stand along for a single and it still makes sense and it still sounds good. Something that is difficult for a band to pull off but something Green Day have done perfectly as though there is the bigger story running throughout each specific song tells it’s own mini story, a little chapter if you will that makes it appropriate to stand alone. The fact they managed to make 9 minute long rock opera ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ popular as a single and got it to chart is testament to their storytelling lyrics and musicianship.
The album came at a time when not only Green Day were going through a bad time career and popularity wise but the world especially America was going through a bad time with terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. It reigned back in many ways to the heyday of punk with it’s heaviness and politicised lyrics, protest songs, an opinionated frontman all wrapped up in brilliantly sometimes heavy sometimes soft tunes and a whole look that the band had. The album created not only a new phase for the band in their career but also in the way they looked, gone were the scruffy looks of the 90’s and here was the put together, stylised, black, white and red uniform that the band created and still in many ways hold to today, 10 years on.
It brought the band back from the brink of extinction creating a chance for them to become the biggest band in the world for the second time, a chance no other band has had before. The album came out at just the right time for people feeling angered about what was going on in the world and plenty of teenagers feeling slightly disillusioned with the world back in 2004. This album will always mean a lot to a lot of people and it will always be a mainstay of not only the punk scene but the music industry in general as one of the best albums to have been produced by any band. The message it stand for, the story running throughout, the band who created it and the message they stand for and the fact that it made them a force to be reckoned with yet again.
For me it’s an album I clung to and loved and I still love it today. I learnt the words and the story and the message and in many ways I think it was the first real experience I had of proper punk music with a message and politics something I continue to be interested in today. Since the moment Green Day released that album they have been one of my favourite bands and I don’t see that changing anytime soon because I love them just as much today as I did back then. I only saw them for the first time last year but it was a brilliant moment for me and completely worth the wait. The album will always be one of my most prized in my collection and I know that even in 20, 30, 40 years time when I listen to ‘American Idiot’ it will still resonate with me as it did back then.