Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Open the past and present and the future too

I've been a fan of Green Day's music for over ten years. Yes, I was one of the millions of teenagers that got hooked on them with Dookie and I find no shame in it. For someone who hadn't really known much about pop and punk sharing the same bed together, Green Day was really different back in 1994. They weren't doomy and gloomy like Alice in Chains or Nirvana. They rocked, they cursed and they looked like the nobodies you kinda knew at school. I could relate to this and still do, but I can't relate to the Green Day of today.

Back in 1993, when word got out that Green Day had signed with a major label (Reprise), longtime fans felt betrayed. The band was reportedly banished from playing their hometown haunt of 924 Gilman Street for life. Tough crowd - and this was well before they had released anything on a major label. Of course it is very narrow-minded to immediately hate a band for signing with a major, but majors have never had a great overall track record with nurturing bands' careers.

Green Day proceeded to put out a string of really good (and big-selling) albums, Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod, but by 2000's Warning, their creative needle was on E. There was only so much they could do with their tools of the trade and they seemed like they were on their way out. This was a band that always put on an entertaining live show and put out bubbly singles, but what else could they do? They had grown up and their material was becoming more and more mature. So, how could a band of jesters do more when they ran out of tricks?

Enter American Idiot, a rock opera of sorts, complete with intricate song structures while still retaining a pop-punk feel. Its lyrics narrate a long, drawn-out story, all backed by a wide range of tempos and feels. This was something really special and people really responded to it, especially with issues brought up in an election year. American Idiot is as strong as Green Day's other albums, but their public persona has gone towards something that the people back on Gilman Street feared the worst: they've become the kind of rock stars that you can't relate to.

It's not the glitz and the glamour that I have a problem with; it's the attitude that the band, especially singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, seems to exude these days. Reading in Rolling Stone about how Armstrong feels like he's pretty good at being a rock star is not something I can relate to. Before, I could understand this rather pudgy guy with crooked teeth. Now with all the black eyeliner, designer clothes and the rock star attitude, he might as well be Mariah Carey. Hearing about how their shows are more arena rock clichefests than anything else, I wonder if the band's playing a really funny joke on us. Is it too late to call these guys sellouts?

I know it's not my life and not everything is going to be as pure as I would like it to be. I have a right to speak up as much as other people want to talk up fame and fortune. What interests me is a sense of disconnect between a musician as a person and a musician as an entity or myth. We're all human beings, but there is a myth that once someone attains certain achievements, that person has superpowers. Well, that Jedi mind trick works on others, but not me.

I still think highly of Green Day because they were a gateway band for me. If it weren't for them, I don't think I would have appreciated a band like Screeching Weasel or Operation Ivy. They've done some great stuff on all of their records, but it annoys me that I have to turn a blind eye to them playing the roles of rock stars for the mall punk crowd. This isn't about community. This isn't relatable.


Kelly & Jose said...

i agree the billie joe/greenday i see on tv and everywhere else is not the the billie joe i used to think of as hero during my youth.he has become like all those larger than life personas people love to least he is not as bad scott is still sad though.

Anonymous said...

i fist got into Green day when american idiot came out becuz i was born in 94, but i understand wut u sed. bj seems like someone who only exists in dreams, not a 17 year old who plays in a local sorry i didnt get to see them in the dookie years

Anonymous said...

i was #2 comentor. i wanted to say i do own my very much loved dookie cd