American Idiot if an important album; not only because it propelled Green Day too proper superstardom (despite not being the bands bestselling album to date) but because it is easily one of the more influential modern rock albums to be released in the 00 decade. Green Day’s 7th album, released in 2004, is the result of the band having their actually written album, which was going to be called Cigarettes and Valentines, stolen so instead of re-recording that album they decided to write a new one from scratch. The result was a just under 60 minute rock extravaganza that moved away from the band purely punk roots and solidified them as a mainstream juggernaut.
The first thing that many will notice is that this is not Dookie. Bille Joe Armstrong, Mike Drint and Tre Cool have moved away from their earlier teen angst filled material, were they were not above making fun of themselves, to new territory and more universal subjects. Looking beyond the album title and the title track, there really isn’t all that much to be said here; relationships and girlfriends once again play a crucial part, there is a strong anti-war theme throughout the album and Armstrong can still write the best melodic choruses in modern rock.
The fast paced opener ‘American Idiot’ is the defining song in the band’s back catalogue, a direct assault against the hypocrisy of the bands motherland; with a brilliantly unforgettable chorus, and a strong main riff, it’s understandable why this track made such an impact on the airwaves. ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ and ‘Holiday’ were also released as main singles, the former two representing a more held back approach by the band with the latter having some good use of a melancholy acoustic guitar that builds well into a heavier mid-section. ‘Holiday’ is a great rock song, planned as a prelude to ‘Boulevard’, with a good heavy drum beat and a strong chorus.
‘Jesus of Suburbia’ was also released as a single and deservedly so. This track, containing 5 different parts, is the best Green Day will ever offer; a song that flows effortlessly while maintaining unpredictability to it; it feels like one long song and individual tracks at the same time. At one moment Armstrong is screeching out social lyrics, but a couple of seconds later an oddly suiting acoustic chord section kicks in and leaves the listener bewildered. ‘Homecoming’ is another beast of a track, also containing five parts, filled with references to other songs and packed with anti-war overtones and subtleties. These two tracks demonstrate how brilliant Green Day can be when their aiming for something more than just simple riffs, cheap choruses and the occasional f--- word.
American Idiot is a surprisingly consistent album, with the non-singles offering a fair amount of weight. ‘Give Me Novacaine’, the blistering ‘St.Jimmy’ and ‘Letterbomb’ are all worthwhile tracks, with the latter two containing some of the best instrumentals on the album. ‘Extraordinary Girl’ doesn’t fair quite as well, a good chorus can’t save what is otherwise a forgettable track.
Green Day hit their accessible peak with American Idiot, a fun packed album that tries to deliver a simple message over and over again. Some may miss the more devil may care and tongue in cheek material that dominated the band’s earlier work, but American Idiot is definitely an album worth owning.