Down to the paradise city

A little politics clashes with Green Day’s sunny disposition

Keri Carlson

A Green Day rock opera might not sound like anything anyone would want to hear. This is the band after all, that capitalized on suburban anomie by writing pop punk (emphasis on “pop”) songs about laziness and masturbation. “Dookie” certainly has its place in music history, but could anyone really stand to listen to a nine-minute version of “Basket Case?”

But this is a different Green Day, and a different time from 1994 when “Dookie” topped the charts, or even 1997 when “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” played at every graduation. Things have changed drastically since Sept. 11, 2001 and Green Day no longer sees fit to sit around and watch TV.

“American Idiot” is Green Day’s reaction to the state of the United States. Never before has Green Day so overtly expressed political dissent. The album’s politics obviously don’t fit the current administration. Lines such as “He lacks the courage in his mind/ Like a child left behind” and “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda” sound like direct shots at President George W. Bush.

The album though, is not simply a Bush-bash. Rather, the storyline of “American Idiot” deals with a contradiction between action and apathy.

Singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s lyrics remain fairly simplistic and his political views are nothing CNN junkies haven’t heard before. But “American Idiot” seems to be more for the “Jackass” viewers, the kids who are new to politics. The best part about the album is that Armstrong does not abandon the theme of frustration over loneliness and bleakness that made Green Day so popular. The album explores the urgency of taking action despite lingering feelings of hopelessness.

Even if the lyrics are somewhat simple, Green Day’s music takes over where the lyrics fall short. “American Idiot’s” music sounds like a protest. Drum beats march and power chords punch their way through stomping punk that varies between the Clash, Screeching Weasel and the Kinks.

This variation makes the two nine-minute songs on the rock opera not only listenable, but worthy of repeated listens.