Green Day were, far as I remember, the first band to give The Duke the shivers. You know how it is, right? There’s a hook, a melody, something so inspiring, so infectious, that you can feel it burrow into your asshole and ascend your spine, beating every organ, bone and muscle fuckless in the process. It only lasts a couple seconds, but in those couple seconds, man, there’s enough endorphins and shit released in the body to keep you soaked in delirium for the next fortnight.
I’ve never felt ashamed, as I see some folks do, by the fact that Green Day were my first love, and that I’ve followed their every flatulent piff since that evening spent entranced by Top Of The Pops. For a twelve year old kid whose only knowledge of the world came from A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, (the motherfucking pinnacle of all Freddies, by the way), living in a council estate in the arse-end of nowhere in The Northern Ireland, you didn’t worry too much about credibility. I can pretend that the first record I bought was Stations Of The Crass or some equally kudos-drenched record, but it wasn’t. Until I heard Green Day that night, via satellite link-up, no less, I didn’t know that there were rock bands in the world who you just fucking knew existed only to catalogue and soundtrack your every waking thought.
I mean sure, I loved Iron Maiden, but it’s kinda hard for a pubescent cinephile to identify with songs about WW2 bombers and plots to assassinate unborn children.
The T-Shirts fucking rocked, though.
This is gonna be hard for a motherfucker from, say, California or some shit to believe, but when Dookie was straddling the album charts like some acne-riddled colossus, I was one of about five folks in my high school who had even heard of these sons a bitches, much less gave a rancid shit.
Of course, this had its benefits, like when I wanted to go out with a lass and so gave her a piece of paper with the lyrics to Why Do You Want Him scribbled on it, claiming it as my own.
Any damn way, what happened is that through time, Green Day never let me down, never released a solitary under-par record. It’s the old cliché about growing up alongside the band that changed your life and all that horse-paste. That first trio, from Smoothed Out to Dookie, talked about teenage lust and longing and all that jazz just as I started wanting to sit with the lasses instead of the blokes, and the lasses started wanting to sit with the motherfuckers flinging footballs around the place. Insomniac, one of the most underrated albums of all ever, was dark and oppressive just when The Duke was starting to write self-pitying poetry and getting all obsessed with Joy Division. Nimrod encapsulated emotions and anxieties and political musings that I was trying with varying degrees of success to articulate.
“What’s the difference between you and me?
I do what I want, and you do what you’re told.”
Warning, though, was streamlined, concise, when I was spiralling into some god-forsaken netherworld of cheap cider and rancid gut-juice.
The point of all this is to illustrate a couple things; A - That even in the foulest of moods, The Duke has never been one to treat Green Day with anything less than awe-struck reverence. And B - That in light of all this, all this growth and so on, it’s nigh-on miraculous that Green Day still produce the stuff that gets The Duke spasaming and jittering like that freaky fucking woman what crawled out the telly in Ring.
American Idiot, the band’s seventh album, is released on Monday. It gives me nothing less than thunderous orgasms of back-breaking intensity to report that it is sheer, unrelenting genius from start to finish.
I remember mentioning Green Day in a chat room one time and being greeted with the derisory sneer; “Yeah. I loved them when I was 14.”
Well let The Duke be the first to announce that if fourteen year olds are the only ones listening to stuff as complex, as inventive, as fucking gorgeous as 9-minute prog-punk opus Jesus Of Suburbia, then all that yacking about The State Of The Youth should be met with disdain, cynicism, and most likely a baseball bat studded to fuck with twenty-inch-long razor-sharp nails. Beat those fears regarding the malcontents sniffing glue at the bus-shelter till its foaming blood-laced bile from every orifice, is what, if those 14 year olds are the only ones fit to grasp the wonder of such a track.
Jesus Of Suburbia, in fact, would need a full review to itself just to do it a shred of justice. Two minutes in, when it adopts a piano-led melody, I almost fell on my fucking back, blinded once more by those arrangements, those damn tunes, those lyrics, that narrative that says less about the apathy of a nation, as has been suggested, than it does about the jaded individuals who make up those statistics.
“And there’s nothing wrong with me,
This is how I’m s’posed to be,
In a land of make-believe,
That don’t believe in me.”
American Idiot is an angry record, for sure, yet not confrontational in the same way that, say, Brain Stew / Jaded from Insomniac may have appeared. Here, the tunes are as sharp, as catchy as anything from Nimrod, but lyrically, and more specifically, in the manner in which those lyrics are delivered, the thing is fucking raging. Billie Joe Armstrong has never sounded so sarcastic, so defiant, and yet at other times he seems to virtually sigh the lyrics.
Anyone who still, after all this time, equates Green Day with the likes of The Blink 82′s or whoever the hell, they need to listen to maybe Boulevard Of Broken Dreams or Are We The Waiting and try to image The Some 41′s or Golfing For Soup ever writing anything so spellbinding.
Are We The Waiting in particular is so evocative, so melancholic, that when it eventually reveals itself to be possibly the most beautifully anthemic thing Green Day have ever written, a fella is left with nothing to do but just sit slack-jawed and staring at the speakers.
This isn’t hyperbole, folks. These things are genuinely this good.
When I heard lead single (and album opener) American Idiot, I gotta admit I was a little apprehensive. It sounded worryingly close to Green Day-By-Numbers, and shit, man, there’s enough Pennywise records for that kinda nonsense. That single, though, is as close to generic as American Idiot the album ever gets. It pushes the goalposts so far back that even if you squint really really hard and bend down and everything, you still won’t have a damn clue how any of their peers are ever going to get anywhere fucking near it ever again.
If the talk of how it’s a concept album, and the whispered ponderings regarding Progressive Punk have got you a bit worried, then chill out, man, and relax. You ain’t gonna think you put on Yes by accident or no shit. And some of it might fly the hell over your head sometimes. Sometimes something hits you that’s so astounding, it takes another couple listens to grasp the following couple minutes. This is the kinda record the detractors never imagined Green Day were capable of, and the kinda thing we all knew they were gonna give us one day.
When Homecoming breaks into some rock n’ roll complete with saxophone and Jerry Lee Lewis piano, before spinning around on itself and turning into doo-wop punk, the only concern a fella has any right to be feeling is something along the lines of, “How can they ever follow this?” The next thought will probably be something along the lines of “I can never love another fucking album.”
Consistently inventive, tunes you could break a leg on, never a solitary note wasted… I’ve never been more jealous of 14 year olds.