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“Fu** Green Day’s Acid Trip, I Wanna Go Home”

Upon the release of Modest Mouse’s last album, The Golden Casket, I gave it a pretty favorable review on this site. I did, however, take somewhat of an exception to the opening, “Fu** Your Acid Trip.” The reasons for my compunction surrounding this particular track, as it were, weren’t necessarily based on any flaw in the music. Actually, it was kind of the opposite — I thought it was wrong how Isaac Brock had seemingly forced a good song out of himself by taking acid. 

I find this exact malady to be at work in Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day, in terms of one particular, select song, “Know Your Enemy,” and, maybe, its buddy song, “21 Guns,” to less of an extent. Both of these songs come from 21st Century Breakdown (2009), an album which, to be honest, I’ve never even listened to all the way through, basically for not thinking it had any point or stood out from their other work in any way [1]. I have to say, “21 Guns” might be the first, and maybe only, full electric ballad Green Day ever wrote that really hit it big, unless you count “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” which features enough use of the whammy bar to perhaps mitigate its qualification as a “ballad,” at all. It’s up for debate. Either way, “21 Guns,” I think, materializes as a pretty special song, when it’s all said and done. 

And don’t get me wrong — I LIKE “Know Your Enemy.” Nobody would probably deny that it’s in general a really catchy tune, complete with the “oh-oh-oh”’s. Also, by this point in their career, their guitar sound is terrific, that raw, clamoring element combining nicely with an overall cleanness that allows Armstrong to toggle chords rapidly and pound out well-defined musical phrases at the pace of everyday life.

It’s just, like, the PROCESS that I have a problem with. I mean, I don’t really know if he’s right when he says “Violence is an energy” and “Silence is the enemy”. Getting back to another Modest Mouse tenet, discussion of this tune could relate to those lines in “Bukowski” that go “Yeah I know he’s a pretty good read / But God who’d wanna be such an a**hole?” And, again, somehow to me it smacks of just tripping on a capitalistic “vision quest” for the objective of generating a new song that’s going to hit it big. By this time, the band no longer had the war in Iraq to berate as an “enemy” — or perhaps wanted to avoid doing that as a way of abstaining from releasing an “American Idiot II,” or whatever you want to call it. Let’s not forget, there is indeed an element of competitiveness in Billie Joe Armstrong’s natural constitution, evident in this one sound bite I heard of him reacting to a top 50 live acts list with the quip that “We’d tear most of these bands up,” or something along those lines [2]. “Know Your Enemy,” while compelling and pretty fun on its surface, is, rudimentarily, a strange song and an estranging song, like the work of some punk rock dictator who’s trying to micromanage the behavior of an entire nation, instead of just getting down to some sweet Martian weed, ya know? 

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[1] Of course, there are people who from the start say that all of Green Day’s albums are the same — you can listen to those a**holes if you want but you’re missing out on some da** fine tunes if you do. 

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[2] And I don’t know how you feel but personally as a Green Day fan I happen to think their live shows pretty much just suck. But it’s beside the point, i suppose, at least pretty much. 

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