I was shocked and amazed the other day. I was in utter disbelief. I discovered this month it has been ten years since arguably the most successful punk rock albums ever was released. The album I am talking about is of course American Idiot by the mighty Green Day.
Released on the 20th of September 2004 American Idiot is the San Francisco based bands seventh studio album. It received a huge amount of praise from music critics and fans all over the world. American Idiot that took Green Day from being the biggest punk band on the planet to one of the biggest bands on the planet. Now ten years later I am going to review American Idiot.
The album kicks off with one of the most recognisable guitar riffs ever before blasting into the lead single with the same name as the album American Idiot. This anti-George Bush anthem is everything you would expect from a Green Day song. Music played at a break neck speed accompanied by Billie Joe Armstrong’s poppy snarl as he belts out some smart lyrics.
Track two is where the album get’s interesting. American Idiot is Green Day’s attempt at a rock opera. It tells the story of Jimmy’s life from birth to death. The song Jesus Of Suburbia is the first of two nine minute long songs on American Idiot. A song comprised of five different parts (Jesus Of Suburbia, City Of The Damned, I Don’t Care, Dearly Beloved, Tales Of Another Broken Home), it tells a tale of Jimmy becoming frustrated with life and running away. For a punk band to write a song this long is almost unheard of but Green Day make it work to fantastic effect.
Up next is Holiday. Opening up with another very recognisable guitar riff this song is the most political on American Idiot. Billie Joe sings with a sneer reminiscent of a man intent on changing the world.
Holiday is followed up by Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. This song tells of how Jimmy has grown disenchanted with life and how he feels alone. He then begins to question his existence in the following song Are We The Waiting. Both of these songs see the band slow things down a notch. Are We The Waiting is a brilliantly atmospheric song and Billie Joe’s vocal delivery is perfect.
Track number six on the album is my personal favourite, St. Jimmy. This fast paced punk rock assault is about St. Jimmy beginning to stand up and fight against the establishment he is so angry at. Armstrong is at his snarling best on this electrifying song. Drummer Tré Cool adds some excellent drum rolls towards the end of the song.
The next two songs Give Me Novacaine and She’s A Rebel could easily be one song. They continue Jimmy’s story as he delves into drugs and meet’s a girl who he feels is dangerous. Give Me Novacaine is a slow tempo number that slowly builds before going into the punchier She’s A Rebel. These songs are followed up by Extraordinary Girl, continuing the talk of women. Jimmy has found himself in a relationship with an amazing woman but finds himself bringing her down.
The tenth song is named Letterbomb and goes back to Green Day’s classic Dookie sound. Billie Joe’s vocal performance is again superb on this song. This is followed by the ballad Wake Me Up When September Ends. Here Billie Joe pulls on your heartstrings as he sings about dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is where Green Day pull out an arena sized anthem from their box of tricks. The song itself is a brilliantly written piece of music but for me it slows the pacing of the album right down and makes it begin to drag.
Wake Me Up When September Ends is followed by the second of two nine minute long songs, Homecoming. Homecoming deals with the death of Jimmy. Split into five parts (Homecoming, East 12th St, Nobody Likes You, Rock and Girlfriend and We’re Coming Home Again) it serves as a eulogy for Jimmy’s life.
American Idiot finishes with Whatsername. This song about trying to find a loved one feels kind of out of place on the album. It’s another great song but with the story telling aspect of American Idiot you would think it would finish with Homecoming. The placing of this song is one of very few blemishes on this album.
Whether you love or hate American Idiot you cannot deny that this is an amazing accomplishment from Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool and producer Rob Cavallo.