Green Day - American Idiot (Cover Artwork)

Green Day

American Idiot (2004)


It's been almost exactly ten years since the industry that is "American Idiot" emerged. I have fond memories of this album, most notably purchasing the deluxe edition the day it came out and trying hard liquor for the first time in my life and listening to it on CD. Now that it's been ten years, I've had time to reflect on the impact this album has made on the world.

The story goes that Green Day were working on a follow—up to "Warning", a lacklustre effort with a few gems, when all their recordings were stolen from them so they started from scratch (definitely punk as fuck). When a band does something as audacious as a rock opera, I can't help but compare it to The Who's Tommy, which I would give 5 stars for being original, offensive, culturally subversive, relevant even today, and for addressing cultural taboos through song. The Who's influence on "American Idiot" is palpable.

Unfortunately Green Day's American Idiot, although great, falls much shorter in all of the aforementioned categories. At the end of the day the album is an anti—Bush—suburban—kid—coming—of—age concept album which is kind of cliché given all of the anti—Bush rhetoric that was beaten to a pulp during this era, albeit justifiably. Also the plot of American Idiot is not as clear as "Tommy" just from listening to the album alone.

The number one standout for me though is definitely "Jesus of Suburbia", although it is in some ways a rip off of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (from their 1971 follow up Who's Next), at least lyrically. Again, hearing Billie Joe sing "I don't feel any shame/I won't apologize", and "land of make believe/and it don't believe in me/and I don't care" is not nearly as compelling as Roger Daltrey singing at the top of his lungs "I don't neeed to be forgiveeennn"). For that reason alone, I can't justify giving American Idiot falls short of the legacy that it's trying to continue.
This album might be daring, but its central focus, teenage angst, is better captured on all Green Day's albums before "Warning".