Friday, 29 August 2014

Music Talk: 10 Years of Green Day's American Idiot

Brace yourselves guys, because I'm going to get emotional up in here.
So ten years ago, the year was 2004. I was thirteen. Which is, arguably, a horrible age to be in. I wouldn't want to be thirteen again for the world. On September 14th, 2004 however, a band called Green Day released their seventh studio album, American Idiot. And it changed my life.

Oh I know exactly how stupid it sounds, to say "uh this piece of music that will probably be forgotten over the course of another few decades" changed my life. But it did. I would not be sitting here today, harping about The Rolling Stones and David Bowie in my MA thesis, had it not been for the massive impact that Green Day's American Idiot had on my adolescent life. We all start somewhere.

So let's go back again to 2004. I may not remember much about what happened ten years ago, but I know that the first song I ever heard of Green Day was Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I heard it on the radio, and I was so, so intrigued by it. The melody, the lyrics, it was just so beautiful to me. It certainly took some time for 13-year-old me to find out what the song was called and by whom it was, but I also remember buying the maxi single (yes, back when we still did that!) for the song soon after I first heard it. It also had She's a Rebel on it, and soon I bought the whole album. I needed more of this music in my life. And man, did I fall in love with everything about this album that is American Idiot.



At thirteen, I certainly did not understand what it meant for an American band to go down the political route, and so openly address all the things they thought was wrong with the government. I was a kid from a rural part of Austria, what the hell did I know about the US and its politics in general? Exactly. Nothing.
But that's only scratching the surface about what this record is about, really.

What's so beautiful about this record, and what also carries this huge identification factor that sucked me in at thirteen (and still does today), is the story it tells. American Idiot has been dubbed a punkrock opera time and time again, and it does fit the bill, in my opinion. You get this kind of schizophrenic character, who is as loveable as he is self-destructive, and you get to listen to his story. Ultimately, it's about life- and that there's always two sides to every coin. It's about gain, and it's about loss; it's about being happy, and it's about being sad; it's about being sober, and it's about being high; it's about our good sides, and it's about our bad sides; it's about leaving home, and coming back again; ultimately it's about life, as it is about death. 

It starts out as a story of alienation, of not fitting in and wanting to pursue something different- and I think that just what hit a nerve with so many teenagers other than myself. It ends on a melancholic note, not all conflicts are resolved, but you still get a satisfying feeling of closure- seriously, just listen through the whole album and tell me that Whatsername doesn't do that for you.


The booklet to my American Idiot CD is absolutetly battered. I though about replacing it often, but I don't have the heart to. Too many memories that cling to these little pieces of paper, and if I'm being honest- Green Day lyrics definitely taught me a lot of English and got me interested in the language in the first place. I certainly wouldn't be as fluent in the language had it not been for the bands that influenced my early teens so greatly that I wanted to inquire about each and every word in their songs and what they meant.

Without Green Day and American Idiot, and discussing everything about the band and their music into the smallest detail in the five minute breaks in between lessons at school, I would never have become as close as I am now with my best friend (shoutout to you if you're reading this, I'm a very sappy mess right now!). Oh, how devastated we were when we couldn't see them perform in the summer of 2005, because our parents for some inconsiderate reason wouldn't let a bunch of 14-year-olds go to the biggest music festival in Austria ... but I digress, it was still epic when we finally got to see them perform live in 2009. And four times more after that; their touring schedule in the last few years has definitely treated us well.

Can ten years really pass that quickly? How can I be 23 now, live in my own flat, listen to this album and fall in love with it over and over again? Let's end this on a lyrical quote, shall we ...

Dear Green Day,

Waste another year flies by, waste a night or two- you taught me how to live ... 
(Homecoming, Part 1: The Death of St. Jimmy) 

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