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The First Album I Ever Loved: Green Day - American Idiot

June 3, 2018

 

When I think back to my characteristics when I was a teenager compared to the 25 year old adult (kinda) that's sitting at his laptop screen writing this article it comes with a vast array of emotions. Besides the standard wonder of "What would life be like if I did/didn't do this" there's an overwhelming sense of relief that I fell in love with music in the way that I did, it's become more than simply a hobbie - it's an aspect of my life which I can never see myself not being incredibly passionate about. 

This sense of relief stems from the fact that as a child music wasn't really important to me, it was just.... there, and if the glare from my television screen wasn't showing me Metal Gear Solid 2, professional wrestling, or football, then the chances were I wasn't going to be interested. Despite it now being one of my life's biggest passions - rock/metal and all the genres in between were never really mentioned to me besides my dad occasionally bringing up that he was quite into Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple back in the day. Little did I know that when I was 11 this would all change.

It sounds weird to say it now, but American Idiot is actually not the record that I have to thank for me finding my thirst for alternative music, truth be told it was actually the debut You Me At Six record Take Off Your Colours that had me searching for bands that were of a similar ilk. YMAS & All Time Low eventually become A Day To Remember, ADTR eventually becomes Parkway Drive and so on, you get the picture.

But while American Idiot didn't catapult me into searching out similar bands, it was the first record I ever heard that showed me music could be much more intelligent and cool than the monotonous tones of pop I'd heard throughout my childhood at that stage. There was something different about this album, something I'd never come across before; a sense of importance and thought in the songwriting that seemed utterly genius to me at the time, and still does now.

 

I was 11 years old, I knew nothing about the world, how it runs, how it should run, or even what type of music I liked the most, but what I did know is that I'd stumbled across an album here that seemed to speak to me more than any other form of audio I had heard up to that point. Politics meant nothing to me, I was oblivious to the fact that a large portion of this album, and indeed the title was a criticism of then American president George Bush; but the potency and heart that went into the lyrical nature of the songs was like a catharsis to me that I didn't know I needed.

My sister, who had been a fan of Green Day for about a year prior had bought the record home and I remember holding the case up and being instantly intrigued by the box art - it spoke a message of danger to me, a message of reckless abandon. Indeed the hooks and crooks of the opening and title track song were enough to have me subconsciously humming the chorus to myself for weeks to come, but it was in the characterisation of the record where I would truly lose myself.

"I'm the son of rage and love, the Jesus Of Suburbia" a simple lyric with a simple chord structure to open up the second song on the album - but the nature and endeavour of the vocals of Billie Joe Armstrong seemed to capture me immediately. A 9 minute song sounds like a marathon to an 11 year old, but I was captivated at the level of intimacy and the vast array of subject matters that found their way into the song, the Jesus of Suburbia, as well as St Jimmy (later referenced in the record) became a protagonist to me - fictional heroes whom I believed better things awaited for them in the future. 

 

 

 

It wasn't just fictional heroes and villains which drew me to American Idiot's rock opera style though, away from the sumptuous choruses of 'Extraordinary Girl' and 'Are We The Waiting', the record was the first time I had ever experienced people, let alone musicians using a platform to voice their displeasure - or at least it was the first time I had cared to listen. Until this point I was under the assumption that everyone likes their country's leader and we all just get on with it - but the spoken word volatile political assault on 'Holiday' opened my eyes to a world where not everyone likes EVERYTHING that they're told to, and that this was okay. It gave me the idea and confidence to question, well, several things, it was often to my detriment but ultimately I found my zenith of common ground which was: I should care about the world, and I should tell people if I disagree with a facet of it.

Love, drugs, hate, war, and politics were explored throughout this album in a way that I couldn't relate to, but I could consider what it must be like to be able to. Everything about this 50 minute venture was just special to me; the climactic throes of 'Letterbomb' the storybook tale of 'St Jimmy', American Idiot was like an onslaught of massive choruses and heart pulling musical structure that I just couldn't help but lose myself within. 

 

Looking back on American Idiot 14 years later, it's heartwarming to see that I wasn't the only one drawn into its clutches and never let go, the record has gone on to sell millions of copies, be counted as a time stamp in American musical history (they even made it into a musical for god sake). The image of Billie Joe in a black shirt with a red tie became infamous with the Green Day moniker, and my sister often mentions the bands performance at the Milton Keynes Bowl off the back of the album as one of her great life experiences. A side note: she also flew to San Francisco to see them, so yeah, she was quite a fan. 

Some purists of the band see American Idiot as the record where the three piece turned their backs on the snot-nosed punk machine that they had become in the 90's. It's understandable too, American Idiot is as far a cry from Dookie as there could possibly be, and perhaps your love or hatred for the bands 2004 political masquerade depends on your perception of the band, and what stage you were at in your life when you found them. Regardless of the naysayers though, American Idiot took Green Day to heights unlike anything they had seen before - they captured the zeitgeist. 

I can look back at American Idiot as the first album I had ever experienced where everyone at my school seemed to know about its existence regardless of interest or taste, I can even look back on American Idiot as the first record I remember my dad saying he was fed up of hearing the album glare out of both mine and my sisters rooms. But more than anything, I can remember and thank American Idiot for being the first album to ever show me what music could be outside of the nonsense I had previously come across. It was my first taster of the person I would eventually become, of the industry I would eventually love. I can't claim that American Idiot was the album that made me search deeper into music, but it was unquestionably the record that lit a fire in me that I didn't know was there until 5 years later.

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