Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why Am I Always This Way?: Green Day, Pt. 3

Apparently, there is a button that just deletes everything you just wrote. Luckily I was only one or two sentences in. But that might be fateful. No matter how many times I've laid out this final entry in the Green Day Defense/Tribute, none of them seem to work, especially since I've hyped this entry, and even though I can't imagine anyone out there has been on pins and needles waiting for it, I'd like to finish things up nicely.

A man (or woman) is defined by many things in their life. However, some are more definitive than others. There are three moments that had a deep impact on me, that in many ways defined the course of my life, that in some ridiculous fashion, were all centered around Green Day. It's silly, I know, as I love the band, but am not a fanatic, i will not ever get any tattoo based on this band, I do not know the members' middle names, or what pets they have, or even their spouses' names (OK, I know Armstrong's wife's name, but that's only 'cause he named his label after her). Nonetheless, these big three moments, while not the most defining moments in my life, are all probably in the top ten.


When I was in the 8th grade, I found myself out mowing the lawn, as many 13 year olds often find themselves doing. Naturally, I had Dookie (the ALBUM, jerk) in my walkman (cassette, no less), and was howling along to it, trying to hear myself over the din of the ancient death machine the parents strapped me to every week. The fact that it was those retro 80's headphones with the thin metal band and the little foamy puffs over your ear didn't help things. So I'm singing along to that record when I realize that after a couple years of singing to that record, I can sing a lot better than I used to. Now, I was in the school choir as a kid, and thanks to my dad, always had music around and was probably already musically inclined, but at this moment, I realized that my "rock"-type singing had gotten better. Not great. Nasally, not 100% on pitch, but not bad. Better than some bands I'd heard by that point (although my dive into awful indie rock vocals didn't come for another couple of years).

"Wow," I thought. "Maybe I could do this, like, in FRONT of people. I've got a guitar, and I sing in my room, but maybe I could, like, perform!"


Let's get to the big one, so that I can end it with a happy one. About a year and a half prior to my "I can do this" moment, I was in Mr. Rowe's science class at West Frederick Middle School. Green Day had just hit the radio with "Longview" and "Basket Case", the latter of which flipped me out. It was most likely my first exposure to punk rock in any accessable form (my previous understanding came from the movies, and as we all know, the 80s never got confused about what punk was. Remember the guy on the bus in that Star Trek movie with the whales? What about the "punks" who listen to funk metal in "Point Break" Ugh...).

"Basket Case" cracks my head open, and the next time I'm at the mall, I sneak off while mom's in some store to go to the record store to find a tape. Yeah, a tape. Dookie was a new release on a major label. It was like $13. For a CASSETTE. I don't have that kind of swag at that age. So I lurk away. Luckily, one of my neighbors has their previous record, Kerplunk, and runs me off a tape of it. I think it had something good on the other side, but I don't remember. in any case, it wasn't labelled and had no track list (that's the important part here). I love it. Even more than "Basket Case". What I liked about the radio songs were the speed, volume, and hooks - I was looking for punk rock but didn't know it. I was, however, at a disadvantage. There was no hipster obscurity points in these days. Not in Middle School. I'd save up my money to buy that cassette, but until then, I was in love with Kerplunk.

A few weeks later, I'm in science class (Remember? Where this all started?) and on our way out of class, I'm on the fringe of some conversation with Heidi (who wore Cranberries shirts and was a vegetarian in the 7th grade - a future barista, I'm almost certain), Jake (a pretty-boy airhead, but certainly the nicest of the bunch to me), and Neil (thuggish frat-rocker type, probably in the private sector these days... middle management?). So they're talking about Green Day.

"I really like Green Day," I chime in.

Now this was a bold statement for the new kid to make. I didn't fit in with anyone, as I'd spent a few years prior living in Europe, so I missed a whole bunch of the important evolutionary years in pre-teen culture in the States (ages 7-9). There was a lot of stuff I didn't get, and didn't fit in at all (although I bet almost everyone felt like this). But here I was, and I'd made a statement, a definitive statement about something. Something that it was already established that the "cool rocker kids" had approved. This was about all we had at this point in our lives, so "claiming" a band was almost like staking out your identity. In that class (1994), we had a "Pearl Jam Guy", "Nirvana Guy", "Doors Girl" (there's one in every class)I'd been woken up by punk rock (not, at that point, really knowing it, or even what punk was), and was planting my flag in it, for better or worse.

"You're just jumping on the trend. You probably can't name any of their songs besides 'Longview' and 'Basket Case'. So trendy..."

I knew most of the words to Kerplunk. I listened to it every night, almost. I'd had my mind completely opened by this music that I thought was almost perfect, the same way certain people reacted to the Beatles, Elvis, the Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc. I had even seen Nirvana at that point, pre-fame, in a GYM in Vienna, Austria. It was by accident, and I hated it, but I saw them playing. But this Green Day thing, I didn't understand it all, but I loved it.

And I didn't have a fucking leg to stand on, 'cause I couldn't name a single other song. I stood there feeling dumb and betrayed. Especially since in the heady days of the early '90s, being a part of the pack was about as uncool as could be. This was the alternative revolution! It was like having the wind knocked out of both me and my sails. I just sorta stood there as they walked off, my identity dismissed and stomped on. It hurt. Not like tears hurt, but hurt. I resolved to go out and get that Dookie tape, and it took a lot of scrounging and pinching and saving change from my lunch money when mom wasn't paying attention to save up that thirteen bucks. And when I did, I memorized the thing. Lyrics, song titles, liner notes, references, as well as any press I came across on cool music. I swore that the next time, they wouldn't be able to dismiss me again. But something funny happened while I was obsessing. I liked it more. And then I found references in liner notes to thanking other bands, and I'd hear the other bands and love them too.

Now, I was never able to rub Jake and Heidi and Neal's faces in my newfound knowledge, since just walking up and spouting would have been social suicide, and in those days, I cared about that. But my insecurity and painful dismissal by the "cool" rocker kids is, I realize, fifteen years later, what made me them music geek I am today. It was the moment that I went from listening to music to diving into it. All these years later, I've played on stages with some amazing bands, worked in a cool indie record store, and was a college level assistant instructor of rock and roll, and I often find myself wondering if that would ever have happened if it weren't for that moment walking out of Mr. Rowe's class.

Despite the theory of the Butterfly Effect in the evolution of time (not that shitty movie, but sorta), my life might have been completely different. I might not have started playing guitar, in which case I never would have started playing out, in which case I never would have met Shannon, and I'd probably not be in Boston in a newsroom right now. And that's just one example. So Jake, Heidi, Neal, and maybe Peter? Thanks, you assholes. And fuck you. (That's the years of built up punk rock.)


Do you remember your first "9 to 5" job after you left school? I do. It was the Credit Union of the university I went to, which is going to remain un-specifically-named, just in case Google still wants to smite me. Anyway, my better half was a few years behind me in school, and I took this job to bide my time until she was out and we could move away from Bloomington together, in search of greener pastures. So I buckled down and after a difficult job search (everyone in a college town is overeducated for what they do), I ended up as a member services representative at the main branch.

It was essentially a soul-crushing job. There were some cool people there, but it was largely horrific. Most of the people who worked there were nice people, but too many of them had been there more than 7 years. This was not a 7 years sort of job. The management was (cliche as it may sound) very similar to the "Lumberg" character... assigning needless busy work for no reason other than to do so (again, more on that in a moment). I spent most of my lunch hours dashing downtown to the record store (Tracks) to try to find some used CDs that would make me happy on the way home... about the only happy I got except for that 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM window when I could hang out with Shannon at home after dinner and before bed.

American Idiot had been out about 6 months. The title track had been all over the radio, and teenage America was lapping it up. I was the bitter, jaded old man who'd been into Green Day the last time they were famous, and still stinging from the commercial failure of the brilliant Warning, I was skeptical of this new "eyeliner and studded belt" version of Green Day. But, one early spring day at Tracks, I picked it up (new, which was weird for me), 'cause I couldn't find anything else, and loved the Banksy-esque cover art. Well, on the way home, I rolled the windows down and cranked that album up. I was so drawn in that I faked a stomach ailment that day so I could leave early and listen to it in my car some more. The first song was sort of political, but it was the rest of it. Was it a great album? Really good, but not great. It was the fact that this album was a rehash of Quadrophenia and Zen Arcade, except for my time, my present. Rehash might be a harsh term... how about reiteration? It was the story of a young teen who leaves home for the real world, only to become disillusioned and try to act to change his circumstances.

All the years I'd spent listening to it's forebearers, I was hit in the face with another concept album with a similar theme, and I realized that I'd betrayed myself. I was wearing a nice blue oxford and some khakis, but it wasn't the dressing that mattered. I'd sold out. I was miserable for $10.00/hr plus benefits. I sold my soul for security.

I drove around for another 2 1/2 hours, miserable that I'd betrayed what I thought I believed in, and realizing that being miserable was not worth what I was getting paid. I wanted to quit my job. That weekend, we were going to visit my parents, and over dinner with them and Shannon, I let is slip that I really didn't like my job and wanted something else. To my surprise and eternal gratitude, they all agreed with me. they supported me.

The next week, on a Friday, my boss came over to me to follow up on some online training tutorials we were supposed to do. It was 3:00 PM, my absolute downtime, which I relished, since us member service reps didn't get breaks, this was our break.

"Hey Mike, did you do those tutorials we had the meeting about Tuesday?" (Three days ago.)

"Uhhhh... not yet. You mentioned they weren't due to the admin office for another 6 weeks. I figured I'd read up on them and then take them" (I was lying, I wasn't going to read up on them.)

"Well, it'd be great if you could do those, alright?" she ordered me, like a gopher popping her head over my cubicle wall.

As she waddled away, I called Shannon.

"Can I do it? Can I do it today?" I asked, since we'd talked about me staying on for one more paycheck, just to have some money in the bank while I hunted for a job.

"If you really want to, yeah, do it.".

There are three times I cherish when Shannon has answered a question for me. The first is when she said she'd be my girlfriend, standing in her driveway when we were in high school. The third is when she said she'd be my wife while we looked over Boston from high above. The second was this conversation I'm recalling.

I knew that the HR machine would be closing at 4:00 on this Friday, and I knew that the branch closed at 6:00. I waited until 4:05 to walk into my managers office and quit.

Shortly thereafter I got a job at the very record store I'd bought American Idiot. It was (to start), $6.00/hr, no benefits, and 20 hours a week. I didn't care. I was free. It was like I'd just woken up from a bad dream. And that was when I turned into a hippie of sorts. You shouldn't have to be unhappy. You CAN change your situation. Was I scared? Yeah. But I did it and my life has been better ever since. I worked that job for over a year, because that's what I thought adult life was. "You're out of college? Here's a soul-crushing but decent paying job. Have fun until you die." I thought that's just how life was. But it's NOT. I got off the treadmill, I moved to Boston without a job (eventually) to an apartment I'd never seen. And it's great. I took control of my life. And I felt like the 15-year-old me, the one that really believed in Quadrophenia and Zen Arcade, would be proud of that, in it's own way. Honestly, I wish it were a "cooler" record I could say "changed my life", but now that I've written it all down, it certainly does seem like it fits that description.



So there it is. Three stories, two of them sorta interesting, about major moments in my life that I would certainly say helped define who I am. The only two unifying threads are Green Day and me. What does it all mean? I have no idea. It's just things that happened. My concept album isn't done yet, but these three moments would probably be tracks. The universe has a deeper meaning I can't understand, but I do know that these things are all intertwined somehow.

Just don't ask me if I have any personal moments related to Toad The Wet Sprocket.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Procrastination Time: Top 7 Of 2009 So Far...

[Initially posted on my account ("MrShake"... add me!), this was too relevant to what I do here to not post. I know I've promised the big finale of the Green Day Trilogy, in which I confess where all my insecurity comes from, how I learned to sing, and how American Idiot was indirectly responsible for the biggest decision of my adult life, but I figure I oughtta build the suspense for that. This should tide you over, since I know you all have been clamoring for more content what with my daily posts [insert emoticon face with "silly" tongue sticking out here, 'cause I won't]. This list was compiled prior to my hearing the new Green Day album, so you can forget about that until the end of the year. With all the writing I've been doing about them, I didn't want to revise to include it right now. Leave a comment, tell me I'm an idiot, you know, whatever...]

OK, so I realize it's only late May, but that means that next week, this year is half over. So in honor of that momentous occasion, I thought I'd put up a list of my favorite 7 albums of 2009 so far, both as something to do, as well as a way to force myself to say something new about the ones that make it through to the end of the year. So without further ado...

7: Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6
Some people gripe about Madlib's instrumentals, and those people are crazy. On paper, it's all soulful jazzy samples over blunted beats, which sounds like it's been done a million times over already. There's something about Madlib's ear that makes these fresh. It's to this album's immense credit that I can't find words that will make it seem unique and interesting, you'll just have to listen to it.

6: Death - For The Whole World To See
I could go on and on about how these three dudes from Detroit were both out-MC5-ing the '5, and how they're like precursors to the garage/soul hybrid that the Dirtbombs are currently rockin', and how they only ever released a limited single before retiring to Vermont as a weirdass Gospel band, or, oh yeah, that they're a trio of '70s black dudes doing fucking searing garage punk. But I won't. This record would have made my top 7 this year(-ish) if it had come out yesterday and had no "rock nerd appeal" sorta story behind it. Bass driven, loud as hell, tight as the Bad Brains, and just fantastic.

5: Volcano Suns - "The Bright Orange Years"/"All Night Lotus Party"
Yeah, it's cheating. These records came out in the mid-80s already, but since they've never been on CD (ever!), and they have more bonus stuff than original album stuff, they count, OK? Imagine if your favorite 80s college/alternative band had a sense of humor AND rocked mightily? "Bright Orange" was written by former members of Mission of Burma and future members of Big Dipper. "Lotus Party" is darker, heavier, and different, but just as good. It's hard post-punk alternative rock that likes to have fun - like driving around with a buddy on a Thursday night cracking jokes about everything. I bought my old LP of this from the main dude in the band. He gave me a few bucks off due to my good taste.

4: Asobi Seksu - Hush
More Cocteau Twins than My Bloody Valentine, more Slowdive than Jesus and Mary Chain, and since I'm getting older, that's OK by me. The third album from these neo-shoegazers is a lot more poppy than a lot of their previous work, and by poppy, I mean repeatable phrases and hooks. It doesn't have the wall of sound that their breakthrough Citrus (incidentally, my #1 of 2006) has, but it's beautiful in the way that it can strip away a lot of the noise and remain beautiful. The only comparison I can make is the gorgeous chiming texture of Slowdive's Pygmalion after the oceanic SouvlakiIf you can dig something pretty, and I think most of us can, this is a must-have.

3: Sune Rose Wagner - Sune Rose Wagner
Exactly what I expected from this, but better. Imagine if the lead songwriter from the Raveonettes put out a solo record. Less "black leather, rock'n'roll", and a little more personal, with a sound like an intimate version of pre-murderer Phil Spector. I hate to fly commercially (it's not natural for humans to be in the sky!), but this was the perfect soundtrack: propulsive, cinematic, intimate, otherworldly. Like tuning into a radio station in Heaven in 1961. I don't even notice that it's sung in Swedish.

2: The Vandelles - Del Black Aloha
I heard their EP at the end of last year and liked it, but thought they'd break up and that would be that. Not too far from A Place To Bury Strangers, this has more go-go surf to it, but just as much noise. Remember that Jesus And Mary Chain album with both "Kill Surf City" and "Surfin' U.S.A." on it? This is like a whole album of that. Of course, to reduce them to a noisy surf band would totally be unfair to all the racket they kick up too. Sometimes that white noise/feedback saddle can be a little contrived, but this album makes it work, and it makes me glad I heard this one this year, so I won't be kicking myself for missing out on putting it on this list.

1: ofthemetro - Under The Sound
OK, so this isn't really an album yet, more of a work in progress. It is still, however, my favorite "release" so far this year. Two tracks from it are now available, and if you haven't looked at my charts recently, you wouldn't know that I've been listening to "April Is The Cruelest Month" and "Roboboogie" over and over. It's electronic, but it's got all the finesse and drive as the best rock albums, while still maintaining some of the glacial beauty and austerity that comes from sequencer rats. Not quite ambient, not quite dancefloor fodder. Reminiscent of the prettiest non-ambient songs by Aphex Twin. Remember track 8 on Analogue Bubblebath 3? (Available for download HERE.) That's the same ballpark, as well as one of the most gorgeous electronic tracks I can think of. Too much electronica is squelchy noodling, but since this comes from a former rock artist, it's lean, never forgetting that it's a song, not a "piece". I'm hoping and assuming that I'll be able to round up more of this by year's end and call it an EP or something.

Friday, May 22, 2009

X-Ray Hamburger (Side Projects And Other Ephemera): Green Day, Pt. 2

Side projects are often a waste of time. Either too specifically stylized for the general populace to enjoy, or too much like the parent project to seem anything other than redundant. I've been in bands, and after a shorter period than many would care to admit, the urge to deflate the balloon a little bit, to "take the piss" as our Brit pals say becomes overwhelming. When things get too serious, they're not fun anymore, so side projects for musicians act almost as a pressure release valve... you can have your cake and eat it too by making music that is supposed to be percieved as "less important" somehow. Green Day are better than many at this. I'm not going to include moments where someone played with somebody else's band (a la Dirnt playing in Screeching Weasel), or The Frustrators, as I have never been able to track down one of their records, but once I make my point, I don't think that will be missed.

From an academic standpoint, let's start with the least important of the side projects: Pinhead Gunpowder. Now, saying that it's the "least important" hurts, because it's a fantastic project. This is a Bay Area punk supergroup, where all the members started on equal footing, even though one went on to global fame. Billie Joe Armstrong got together with some buddies from his friends' bands and made a record. Then he gets what I like to call "stupid famous". Why would he keep making records with PG? Cause they're great. This could be thought of as a "keepin' it real" project, the kind of authentic good time that megastars find all kinds of contrived ways to grasp. Tin Machine anyone? The difference is that this is great. Armstrong's songs (he shares songwriting duty) are like Green Day pre-Dookie. Direct, maybe a little harder than the major-label stuff, but by and large the same. And the fact that he keeps putting out a Pinhead Gunpowder record on his own Adeline Records every couple of years with no hype speaks volumes about how grounded this guy must be, I guess. I'd be too busy in my fur-lined jet.

Now, on a less serious note, let's talk about The Network.

The Network hate Green Day. Members Fink, The Snoo, and Van Gough are a New Wave band that Green Day supported initially. Brought them to the States from wherever they're from, helped them get a deal, and suddenly The Network turned on them. According to Armstrong:

"I just wanted to talk about the rumors and the bullshit that has been going on lately. All I gotta say is fuck The Network. These guys are totally spreading rumors. I try to do those guys a favour by bringing them to this country and putting out their record and this is how I get repaid, by talking shit about my band. Unfortunately there is a contract and I have to put out their record. The only thing I can say is Fuck you, Network. Bring it on."

There's video of a Network press conference that devolves into chair-throwing once Green Day's name is brought up. The Network's lone album, Money Money 2020, is a dark, synth-heavy descendent of Devo and pre-chicks Human League. Catchy, but not something you'd want to catch. The closest it comes to a pop hit is a squelching cover of the Misfits' "Teenagers From Mars". Wait, what? That doesn't seem like your typical Depeche Mode cover fodder. Pretty punk for a futurist pop band, huh? Maybe things aren't as they seem?

Of course they aren't. This (obviously) is Green Day with some extra members (gross), and getting their Devo jones out. And it comes across well. If it weren't for the fact that these songs are catchy and it's clearly Armstrong singing, I would never have made the initial connection between the two. Now, as I said, there is other evidence (record label, etc.), but this is a GOOD new wave record, in that it doesn't feel put on, it feels natural. A bit smart-assed, but natural.

On the other side of the fence (stylistically, that is) is the more recent, and much more well-known, Foxboro Hot Tubs. There was apparently an attempt to keep this one under wraps too, but that lasted all of 5 minutes. In fact, it was known that this was Green Day when I got the record, which was about 3 weeks before it came out. Thanks, mysterious benefactor!

So this one's not New Wave, but garage rock. Now, I like Green Day, and I like garage rock, so this one should be a no-brainer for me, right? Well, it is. Less affected than Money Money 2020, but just as fun. However, the fact that garage and punk ain't that far removed, and Green Day ain't exactly a pure punk band to begin with, means that this one doesn't quite have the same shock as, say, Slayer doing a folk tune, but for those who've been bitching about Green Day's proper albums being a little overblown these days, this is a tonic for the soul. Much like Pinhead Gunpowder, this shit hearkens back to the Lookout! Records years without seeming like a retread - in fact, there's a lot less metal and a lot more soul here than on those early records. Surprisingly, this one was a minor hit (at least, I remember seeing it on display in Best Buy), once again proving that even the masses will occasionally fuck up and elevate something to a higher level that deserves to be there. [Please see: Battlestar Galactica 2.0, Prince, Twin Peaks, Lost, etc.] Worth getting, if not just in the hopes that they keep making more records under this name. I'm a garage revival nerd and this floored me as totally solid from beginning to end.

So that about does it. No fancy wrap-up, just the knowledge that there's a good band is talented enough to put out records on the side that most other bands would love to have as their main creative outlet. Bands that stay active because they want to, and stay catchy and relevant doing it. This is not The Power Station.

[NEXT TIME: Using Green Day as a flimsy framework for an unravelling of my psyche (this is the line for free therapy, right?), I'll discuss how Green Day unwittingly played a huge part in the development of my personality not once, not twice, but THREE different times! How was my young mind warped by modern rock radio? Log on to find out!]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time To Face The Music: Green Day, Pt. 1

I know that I had my Catholic confession just a few posts ago, exposing all my guilty pleasure and secret loves to the world at large, and I've only finally worked up the gusto to make what to some may be a startling confession...

I still like Green Day.

Even the new stuff.

Now, some people might not grasp the magnitude of this claim from someone in my position. An aging punk rocker who was there when Green Day threw Dookie at MTV. They acted as both my entrance into a punk rock world that completely shaped my worldview, as well as said world's representation of my chosen group. To this day, if someone from the straight world (i.e. not a total music nut) asks wheat type of music I like, and I'm naive enough to say "punk" (naive, in that most people usually cringe at that word, even in a post-Hot Topic landsape), I almost invariably get a "Oh, so you like Green Day then?" in return. However, this presence in the greater world came at the cost of credibility in the fiercely ethical and resolutely underground punk world. In my teen years, I even came to physical blows over this subject MULTIPLE TIMES having to defend my taste. Apparently, once Green Day is brought into the mix, fully authorized bands like Buzzcocks, The Undertones, and The Jam are inadmissable as evidence of "cred" (how's that for using a law metaphor for punk rock, Brent?)

Now, say what you will about Green Day's punk cred, but I'm bored with that whole topic. They were always a pop band at heart, but they were punk as fuck. Still are. Playing songs like "At The Library" and "Who Shot Holden Caulfield?" at Gilman St and not getting killed was their cred. Their never making a lazy album was their cred. If you're one of those people who list the Who and the Kinks as punk founders, you know that just by keeping integrity they're punk. Like those bands, once they've proven their "punk-ness" they can use a solid rep to go on to expand the template, so to speak. The Who Sell Out sure doesn't sound like "My Generation" or "I Can't Explain", but damn is it good, without the bloated excesses of late-70s Who. It's got a little excess, but it's just as much as it needs to float.

OK, so maybe I AM off track, but my point is that just cause something's a little excessive doesn't mean it's too much, and I say this cautiously, knowing that I'm on dangerous ground for a punk. But here's the thing... just because Green Day is huge, and I was into them the first go-round, doesn't mean that they weren't always headed this direction. People deride American Idiot saying that it's too big and populist and pandering... who were they pandering to? They were coming off Warning, their most Kinks/Costello like work, and it BOMBED. I remember it came out the same week as Radiohead's Kid A and I was mercilessly chided by the "serious rocker" dudes on my dorm floor. I stand by my choice. There was little-to-no demand for it, and such a strange concept would surely only market to hardcore fans who'd inevitably compare it to Quadrophenia and Zen Arcade and that would be that. But it got huge with the preteens... the very same people who hooked onto them last time.

It ain't the post-grunge '90s, no matter how much some of us sometimes wish it was (musically, at least...), and it's a different time. So the rock stars wear eyeliner now (again), and in post-emo pop there's a fair dose of bombast. Let's not forget that these boys almost invented mall emo... what were their hits except for lonely teens who were bored and pining for some punker chick?

Now I KNOW I'm rambling, but I'm following through with another Who comparision, and going so far as to say that Green Day are our generation's 70s Who. Soundwise, they owe a debt, but that's not what I mean. They can walk that line of populist blue collar fanbase for lofty, ambitious concept albums that are either loved or hated by critics. Their stuff stands out as being written by a really smart Regular Guy delivered by a bunch of Regular Guys. Kids love them, teen girls have pin-ups, older teens have great music that they can take on 2 levels, and old geezers like me have a band that they can listen to that they liked in their youth too.

Why all this? I just heard their latest album, 21st Century Breakdown, after a few months of mocking, references to how I USED to like them, dumbfounded stares when I talk about how I "liked them when I was your age". I was totally wrong. This is a great record. Passionate, hooky, and roaring. A step down from American Idiot, but only a little step, and they sure as hell had to come up with something good to even come close to that. I don't know what the hell the concept is supposed to be this time. But it's at least audible that we have characters and progression (which is more than can be said for most of it's type from the '70s). The playing is good, and it's tight, and it's forceful. This sounds VITAL, even if it's not. And I'm going to let myself fall for it.

This ain't their The Who Sell Out. This one is a bit more Quadrophenia. It's not Village Green, but it's certainly something like their Lola Vs. Powerman.... I'd be hard pressed to say that this is their peak, something that I feel is probably behind them. But seriously... have you LISTENED to Quadrophenia or Lola recently? They're great. Here's hoping I feel the same way about this album 30 years on.

[Tune in next week for my writeups of the Green Day side projects, now with more secret identities than you can shake a stick at! Shortly thereafter, we'll close out the series with a piece entitled "Why Am I Always This Way", delving deeper into my psyche than usual!]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Since U Been Gone

I've been off the map for a while, as I've been relocating to the Savin Hill area of Dorchester area of Boston. Sorry to keep you all holding your breath.

More to follow soon, once I remove my life from boxes and hopefully throw away about a third of it, but as I sit here, I'm watching the DVD extras to the Live Forever Britpop documentary, and Jon Savage, one of my very favorite rock writers, is expounding on the great Oasis/Blur competition. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about, but he's also coming off as an insufferable snob, which I find odd for a man who has been one of the finest chroniclers of the ultimate form of punk - the raw, everyman's rock form. Is it really so strange that he seems a bit like an overeducated snoot? Perhaps this is merely a bad moment for him, but I thought that he would certainly have a little more of a down-to-earth character. He doesn't seem like a bad person, nor a poor interview, just a bit highfalutin.

More on things later.