Sunday Song Lyric:
The evolution of Green Day is quite remarkable. They were basically a punk revival band when I saw them in concert some fifteen years ago. I liked their stuff, but I would never have thought them capable of producing work like 2004's American Idiot and this year's 21st Century Breakdown. These two albums are particularly remarkable at a time when it seems most major, commercially successful artists have little interest in producing albums, that is records that work as coherent wholes, and are more than collections of potential singles interspersed with filler.

American Idiot is easily one of my favorite albums released in the past five years (though I think I'll pass on the musical). I haven't reached a final judgment on 21st Century Breakdown, but it's also quite good. The title track begins:

Born into Nixon I was raised in hell
A welfare child where the teamsters dwelled
The last one born and the first one to run
My town was blind from refinery sun

My generation is zero
I never made it as a working class hero

21st Century Breakdown
I once was lost but never was found
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind
To the 20th Century Deadline
Here are the full lyrics, and a live performance.
Jonathan W. (mail) (www):
I've never heard the album or anything by this group, but based on the bad-ass-clever-neo-slacker-hip-nihilist lyrics, it doesn't attract, not quite my cup of tea. I shouldn't be so dismissive, but the coolness of nothingness lived and died with Sartre, and that is the best thing the French never gave us.
9.20.2009 9:23am
What an arrogant response, Jonathan. You and the rest of us are just absolutely nowhere. Rejecting a system that lied to our parents makes us hip-nihilists? Calling out the kind of practices that led to the Buffalo Creek disaster makes us neo-slackers? I suppose you feel the underclass should just man up and resign themselves to dying at 55 from black lung disease.
9.20.2009 10:05am
Cornellian (mail):
Been wondering lately what "21 Guns" is about.
9.20.2009 10:27am
Jonathan W. (mail) (www):
You may be right Yeshi.
I never could make it as a slacker. I tried, really, I gave it my best effort, my finest drops (if you will,) and falied. Life seems infused with an inexplicable beauty from all quarters, and so much so that it became impossible for me to comprehend that the wealth or art and literature and the innovations which I perceived in wonder and amazement is really just the communal sh*t-hole which you described.
9.20.2009 10:31am
I bought their first CD 15 years ago and thought they were ok- good but never my favorite. I didn't keep up with them after that.

A few months ago, on a lark, I went to their concert and was blown away. It is the best concert presentation I've ever seen- the playing was great, the songs sounded great, and the singer was wonderful at working the crowd.

If you have any interest in rock music, even if you're not a Green Day fan, you need to watch this show.
9.20.2009 11:00am
Michael J.Z. Mannheimer:
When American Idiot came out, I thought it was one of the 10 or 15 best albums of all time. I also thought GD would never top it. But 21st Century Breakdown is even better.
9.20.2009 11:01am
fishbane (mail):
I've been surprised by them, too. I thought they were a flash in the pan, but they've become remarkably good. I saw them a long time ago in Oakland, and thought they were a fairly unoriginal distillation of west coast punk, but they've aged better than just about anyone from that era.

As for people wringing hands over the message, get over it. If you choose to ignore art that fails to reflect your experience or discusses things you don't want to think about, that's fine, if ironic. (Also a bit funny that Jonathan W. seems to not know what a rich artistic legacy existentialism has given this country, but not surprising.)
9.20.2009 11:11am
When the Stones and The Who no longer roam Earth, Green Day may be the lone candidate to continue the bloodline.

Green Day has a gimmick or two(half-step-down tuning) -- much as Keith Richards had open-G tuning and Pete Townshend had the windmill and the guitar-bashing -- but the band and material are solid. The live shows deliver to crowds that range from 12 to 60. I have liked Green Day since Basket Case, When I Come Around, Welcome to Paradise and Longview (which still strike me as strong early works).

I agree that American Idiot is better than 21st Century Breakdown, but the issue reminds me of the Sticky Fingers-Let It Bleed-Beggars Banquet-Exile On Main Street, Who's Next-Quadrophenia-Tommy-Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy and Greetings From Asbury Park-E Street Shuffle-Born To Run-Darkness debates. They're all great.

Springsteen and Fogerty, on the other hand, currently lack apparent heirs.
9.20.2009 11:53am
I have to disagree with this post. Green Day has devolved significantly. However, I will never relinquish my copy of Dookie.
9.20.2009 12:08pm
i feel the same way about green day that i do about rage against the machine.

while i believe RATM is (was) a far superior band, they are both examples of bands that wear their political hearts on their sleeves, yet are so fricking good, that i can ignore that and just love their music.

oh, and just for the record Arthur: Quadrophenia is VASTLY superior to tommy.
9.20.2009 2:57pm
Stevie Miller (mail):
Oh don't be so hard on yourself, Jon.

You may not have made it as a slacker, but you turned out as a lyric-quoting law prof, right?

Similar lifestyle, no heavy lifting, no real impact on society, but bigger paycheck. Close enough for Kool-Aid.

9.20.2009 3:21pm
I agree that Quadrophenia is superior to Tommy, to the point of being in the running for my favorite album (which I never have been able to determine). If John Entwistle had played The Real Me's bass line (check the reworked version on the soundtrack album) 2,000 years ago, a substantial fraction of the world's population might be worshipping him these days.

In my mind, Who's Next is Quadrophenia's toughest competition among Who albums. Enough people prefer Tommy (for understandable reasons), however, to generate a legitimate debate.
9.20.2009 3:57pm
grendel_loki (mail):
Never thought I'd see the day where Green Day was featured on VC... especially in a good light. Interesting.

I love Green Day, too. American Idiot was an incredible album. Typically, you don't see a band like Green Day do well after an incredible album like Dookie. Of course, Insomniac didn't do nearly as well as its predecessor, but how could a sophomore album even dream of selling 14 million copies?

I really felt for Green Day after Nimrod. They didn't know where they were, musically. Warning was a weird collection of rock songs that lacked the tinge and urgency of their other albums. I think they were trying to move away from the punk realm that made them. After flailing about with Warning and International Superhits (and a few other albums released under pseudonyms), I think they really wondered how relevant they would be in the post-alternative/punk musical world.

Of course, they manned up, crafted "American Idiot", and are now riding the wave. They're almost one of those untouchable bands (think U2 or DMB) that is transcending above contemporary music.

Or, well, at least that's my opinion.
9.20.2009 4:27pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Wow. My children are so embarrassed by their early affection for GD, in its early mode, they will not even entertain the idea that the band has progressed. So much for the open-mindedness of the young.

As to The Who: gotta be Who's Next.

Next question: best Pink Floyd album? (I see no hope for choosing among the best Stones efforts; sometimes hierarchical rankings are just pointless.)
9.20.2009 5:39pm
Guy in a Veal Calf office (mail):
they're on my regular loop since I saw them in the early days in Berkeley, but I've always wondered why they adopted a british accent? just seems weird.
9.20.2009 9:48pm

If John Entwistle had played The Real Me's bass line (check the reworked version on the soundtrack album) 2,000 years ago, a substantial fraction of the world's population might be worshipping him these days.

lol. yet totally true. entwhistle used to do that song in his solo shows too.

In my mind, Who's Next is Quadrophenia's toughest competition among Who albums. Enough people prefer Tommy (for understandable reasons), however, to generate a legitimate debate.

tommy vs. quadrophenia is a perfect comparison because they are both similar in concept.

they are both rock operas (well, quadrophenia wasn't originally, it was realized as a movie, but NOW it's a rock opera)

i can't tell you how much i love who's next. i can't really compare it to quadrophenia, because it's such a totally different concept, it's almost like comparing a painting to a sculpture.
9.20.2009 9:53pm
Much of what became Who's Next was to have been another operatic work, but Pete never finished Lifehouse. The music splintered across Who's Next, Who Are You, Who Came First, Who By Numbers and maybe even another one or two. I have an interesting multi-CD Lifehouse compilation (prepared by Townshend about 10 years ago) that indicates the completed work would have been wonderful.

The plot of Lifehouse, from the late '60s or early '70s, features a recognizable forecast of the internet/video game/Total Information Awareness/webcam world.
9.21.2009 1:39am

If John Entwistle had played The Real Me's bass line (check the reworked version on the soundtrack album) 2,000 years ago, a substantial fraction of the world's population might be worshipping him these days.

lol. yet totally true.

Of course it is true. Merely producing an Alembic bass and a Sunn amplification system 2,000 years ago would have been the greatest feat ever accomplished on this planet, by a substantial margin; the bass line, while sweet as can be, would have been nothing more than icing.
9.21.2009 1:43am
wht (mail):
If you liked early green day check out Rancid's second album Let's Go.

A few songs written with the billy, both credited and uncredited.
9.21.2009 9:55am
Pendulum (mail):
Wow, what a great discussion. What a fantastic mention of The Real Me's bassline - that's one of my favorite moments on Quadrophenia too. Entwistle's playing on that album is just spectacular. And add me to the group who puts Quadrophenia about 4 notches higher than Tommy (no disrespect to Tommy) on the imaginary notch scale.

Love American Idiot. My initial reactions to 21st Century Breakdown are mildly negative. I need to listen more.

As for an heir to Springsteen (who I'm no fan of), how about The Hold Steady (who I am! - particularly Separation Sunday and Boys &Girls in America)? There is no heir to Fogarty that comes to mind - that ship has sailed, musically, I think. Speaking of heirs, can I make a case for Bright Eyes as a legitimate heir of Bob Dylan? Compare "I Must Belong Somewhere," Cassadega (Bright Eyes 2006) (Oberst, C.) with "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), Bringing It (Dylan 1965) (Dylan, B.).

As for favorite Pink Floyd albums, in order:
Piper At the Gates of Dawn
The Wall
Dark Side of the Moon
The Final Cut
Wish You Were Here
Atom Heart Mother
(I will plead guilty to a pro-defined songwriting and thus pro Roger/Syd bias - no disrespect to Dave).
9.21.2009 7:25pm

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