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“A Few Sporadic Recommendations on How to Take the Potent Capsule That Is 21st Century Green Day”

This is a post about the beauty of a fat dude wearing a Green Day shirt on IUPUI’s campus on a cloudy day in 2006, his face hewn in an immortal scowl which is somehow not unfriendly. It’s a post about being yourself, fully yourself, if only for a minute on some nondescript night, no matter what others around you say, or think.

Think maybe Green Day still has its haters? I still remember some online board, this dude with his panties in a bunch saying “No way” was Green Day’s new song “Oh Love” “epic.” He reminded me of this dude one time who denied that Radiohead would one day be “legendary,” a claim I made after OK Computer. I’ve never understood this sentiment, this deliberate attempt to knock down an artistic entity. It’s a state that is inherently flawed; its fallaciousness is self-evident. When true artistic expression is understandable, its power is undeniable. Eventually in life we all face challenges, obligations, things which pull us out of our comfort zone, and emotional dead ends, so however we assuage these states of ennui should be encouraged, provided they don’t hurt anybody else in the process.
So obviously, the problem for these small-minded people is that the methods which individuals choose for self-betterment are not interactive, leaving an excluded feeling for those not directly involved. I’m reminded of the Iron and Wine line “No one is the savior they would like to be,” an unforgettable adage among many like brethren on 2007’s album The Shepherd’s Dog. Green Day sit on a sort of funny bone of America, because they’re punk rock, but they’re also pop, like a rose that gets both sun and rain, and uses each equally to fashion out its own brand of inner beauty. On one hand, songs like “When I Come around” and “Redundant” are neat and concise, pills easily swallowed and channeled into realms of the unforgettable anthem, the continually playable radio song. On the other hand, they’re punk rock — songs of individuality, songs askance before the prevailing cultural status quo. At times, like on maybe Insomniac’s “Jaded” and Nimrod’s “I Hate You,” the band would venture considerably into the “punk” end of the spectrum, and then see Nimrod’s belying mega-hit “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and American Idiot’s radio-appealing but well aging “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” for examples of their especial forays into pop sugariness. But, it seems, it is this neverending balance, which maybe just be in the mind of the muse an inability to settle on one identity, an inability to decide anything in life but one’s own fallibility, one’s own continuous necessity to be open and vibrating, every single day, which brings them back to the middle ground, and it is here wherein they thrive even in recent day with songs like “Oh, Love,” with songs like “Rusty James,” with songs like “Little Boy Named Train.”
But unlike Modest Mouse, which may for all we know have a similar balance just ineffectively derived, Green Day has not changed since their onset, and despite the logic of some wayward philosophers, this is in fact a good thing. The proof is in the pudding once you hear the strong tracks on the recent trilogy of albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! Here is my full disc best-of, culled from a mixture of these three albums, and placed in what I find to be a palatable and zesty order: (01/ “Ashley”; 02/ “Nightlife”; 03/ “Let Yourself Go”; 04/ “Rusty James”; 05/ “Wild One”; 06/ “Nuclear Family”; 07/ “Oh Love”; 08/ “Stop When the Red Lights Flash”; 09/ “Sex, Drugs & Violence”; 10/ “The Forgotten”; 11/ “Little Boy Named Train”; 12/ “X-Kid”; 13/ “Troublemaker”; 14/ “Lady Cobra”; 15/ “Amy”; 16/ “Lazy Bones”). This is good.
Now it gets a little hairier, like a rock-opera soap-opera. Because everybody knows 21st Century Breakdown sucked — the songs immediately struck the listener as outtakes from the sessions of the previous record, not unlike Beach House’s Bloom and Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. [1]
This is even true of the “hit,” which mind you was never really a hit, mired in what was probably Green Day’s deliberate attempt to shed not only all critical acclaim and fan popularity, but widespread respect, as well, [2] “21 Guns.” Placed on American Idiot, it does get somewhat lost in the sequence, despite being stylistically similar to and about as good as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” That album simply did not need another ballad, and credit Billie Joe for billing it as a subversive punk scrawling, by way of the titled track and otherwise– [3] summoning up all the best facets of a bona fide political manifesto when what he was actually feeling inside, to a greater degree, was the plangent mourning of melody. [4] 21st Century Breakdown sure seemed sappy to me — Armstrong wanted American Idiot as his punk album, and Breakdown as the “woe of aftermath,” [5] so to speak, but it’s actually not really a song ABOUT any war but that on the inside, the strife and compromise we feel in times of peace or imperialism, life-living tactics we all must face and perfect. It is a song that robustly flanks weekend occasions, a drinking song of undeniable melodic swagger, recognizably and inherently “Green Day” for its sheer mass of genuineness and integrity spewed onto the poppy Beatles-esque blueprint. What’s more, it’s been buried, and now resurrected, by way of juke boxes, when you need an antidote to distract your mind from all the cultural hoopla we seem to artificially create everyday, from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame debates to any other gossip-related skirmishes. Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re all human, and sometimes we need a systematic denial of that very fact.
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[1] Hate me for the first one if you like, but Graffiti even contains a SONG entitled “Houses of the Holy,” so I’m not sure how you could argue with that piece.
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[2] Check Green Day’s utilization of hit-making producer Butch Vig for 21st Century Breakdown, deviating from Warner Bros. guru Rob Cavallo, who originally signed Green Day as well as the Goo Goo Dolls, and produced their albums before and since.
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[3] Plus the breakneck rockers like “St. Jimmy” really do kick a**.
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[4] It’s arguable that only Incubus in the ’00’s made a bolder statement against G.W. Bush, with the multimedia juggernaut that was the video for “Megalomaniac,” an overproduced song but one that still sounds great in bars, maybe even better than “Warning.”
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[5] A la Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore”

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