American Idiot

American Idiot

4.5 165
by Green Day
     
 

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If you had to pick one band to don the "least likely to create a rock opera" mantle, Cali-punk trio Green Day would be among the most logical candidates. That makes the existence of American Idiot something of a surprise -- and the excellence of its contents little short of a revelation. There are no half measures on the sprawling disc. Billie Joe Armstrong hasSee more details below

Overview

If you had to pick one band to don the "least likely to create a rock opera" mantle, Cali-punk trio Green Day would be among the most logical candidates. That makes the existence of American Idiot something of a surprise -- and the excellence of its contents little short of a revelation. There are no half measures on the sprawling disc. Billie Joe Armstrong has created a full slate of characters and given considerable thought to their back-stories -- heck, he even dug out a glockenspiel to add dramatic tension to the nine-minute epic "Jesus of Suburbia." Thing is, Armstrong and company haven't lost their snotty Gilman Street edge in the process -- as evidenced by the snarling, expletive-laced title track and the made-for-pogoing sing-along "Extraordinary Girl." While there's obviously a political subtext running through the disc, Armstrong seldom gets so specific that the disc will sound dated come the next election cycle. Instead, songs like the Clash-styled "Are We the Waiting" and the spare ballad "Wake Me Up when September Ends" delve into adult-oriented emotional distress with the same sort of incisiveness the band once applied to teen angst. While there are occasional lapses into utter excess -- "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" encroaches on show-tune territory -- American Idiot packs enough power, both sonically and emotionally, to make it worthy of extended play (and consideration for a 2004 time capsule).

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's a bit tempting to peg Green Day's sprawling, ambitious, brilliant seventh album, American Idiot, as their version of a Who album, the next logical step forward from the Kinks-inspired popcraft of their underrated 2000 effort, Warning, but things aren't quite that simple. American Idiot is an unapologetic, unabashed rock opera, a form that Pete Townshend pioneered with Tommy, but Green Day doesn't use that for a blueprint as much as they use the Who's mini-opera "A Quick One, While He's Away," whose whirlwind succession of 90-second songs isn't only emulated on two song suites here, but provides the template for the larger 13-song cycle. But the Who are only one of many inspirations on this audacious, immensely entertaining album. The story of St. Jimmy has an arc similar to Hüsker Dü's landmark punk-opera Zen Arcade, while the music has grandiose flourishes straight out of both Queen and Rocky Horror Picture Show (the '50s pastiche "Rock and Roll Girlfriend" is punk rock Meat Loaf), all tied together with a nervy urgency and a political passion reminiscent of the Clash, or all the anti-Reagan American hardcore bands of the '80s. These are just the clearest touchstones for American Idiot, but reducing the album to its influences gives the inaccurate impression that this is no more than a patchwork quilt of familiar sounds, when it's an idiosyncratic, visionary work in its own right. First of all, part of Green Day's appeal is how they have personalized the sounds of the past, making time-honored guitar rock traditions seem fresh, even vital. With their first albums, they styled themselves after first-generation punk they were too young to hear firsthand, and as their career progressed, the group not only synthesized these influences into something distinctive, but chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong turned into a muscular, versatile songwriter in his own right. Warning illustrated their growing musical acumen quite impressively, but here, the music isn't only tougher, it's fluid and, better still, it fuels the anger, disillusionment, heartbreak, frustration, and scathing wit at the core of American Idiot. And one of the truly startling things about American Idiot is how the increased musicality of the band is matched by Armstrong's incisive, cutting lyrics, which effectively convey the paranoia and fear of living in American in days after 9/11, but also veer into moving, intimate small-scale character sketches. There's a lot to absorb here, and cynics might dismiss it after one listen as a bit of a mess when it's really a rich, multi-faceted work, one that is bracing upon the first spin and grows in stature and becomes more addictive with each repeated play. Like all great concept albums, American Idiot works on several different levels. It can be taken as a collection of great songs -- songs that are as visceral or as poignant as Green Day at their best, songs that resonate outside of the larger canvas of the story, as the fiery anti-Dubya title anthem proves -- but these songs have a different, more lasting impact when taken as a whole. While its breakneck, freewheeling musicality has many inspirations, there really aren't many records like American Idiot (bizarrely enough, the Fiery Furnaces' Blueberry Boat is one of the closest, at least on a sonic level, largely because both groups draw deeply from the kaleidoscopic "A Quick One"). In its musical muscle and sweeping, politically charged narrative, it's something of a masterpiece, and one of the few -- if not the only -- records of 2004 to convey what it feels like to live in the strange, bewildering America of the early 2000s.
Entertainment Weekly - Stephen King
Not just the best album of the year, but one of the best to be released in the entire rock era.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/21/2004
Label:
Reprise / Wea
UPC:
0093624877721
catalogNumber:
48777
Rank:
1000

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Green Day   Primary Artist
Tre Cool   Drums,Vocals
Billie Joe   Guitar,Vocals
Rob Cavallo   Piano
Mike Dirnt   Bass,Vocals
Billie Joe Armstrong   Guitar,Vocals
Kathleen Hanna   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Jason Freese   Saxophone

Technical Credits

Tre Cool   Composer
Green Day   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Ted Jensen   Mastering
Doug McKean   Engineer
Rob Cavallo   Producer,Audio Production
Bill Schneider   Guitar Techician
Nigel Lundemo   Digital Editing
Mike Dirnt   Composer
Chris Bilheimer   Art Direction
Mike Fasano   Drum Technician
Billie Joe Armstrong   Composer
Reto Peter   Engineer
Kenny Butler   Drum Technician
Chris Dugan   Engineer

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