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Green Day: A Clarion Call to Fuck Shit Up
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 4 ]

There’s a wonderful write-up at MamaPop about Green Day’s intergenerational appeal, but, much more than that, about Green Day’s place in finding oneself and one’s identity, even as early as age 11 — and at what age can one not relate to that? And it’s also about a wistful parent watching his boy grow up. Below is an excerpt. Read it all here.

I watched my sweet little boy lose his fucking mind at the Green Day show. I had never seen this side of him. I didn’t know it was there. But it was not lost on me that, even though he was at the show with his Dad, he was ecstatically discovering a world that would insist on severing parental ties in an effort to form broader identifications with music, friends, his own world, and his own sense of who he will be (who he is called to be), as opposed to who I expect to him be. He’s getting ready to fuck shit up. And that process requires loud rude music with raucous drums and power chords because these are the sounds of kicking into one’s self.

It’s difficult to be a man who admires defiance, who knows that the edge is where all the prizes are, but who also has a trail of bodies in his wake of friends who couldn’t manage that edge, who fell right off it. It’s a tight rope, that walk across the middle. Mind your senses, young man. Take care of my boy, Billie Joe Armstrong.

August 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm [ Category: Essay, Personal, Concerts ]

Listening to Green Day Again
Posted by Guest [ Comments: 9 ]

[This essay was written by Kelsey. Thanks for sending it in. -Delfina]

I feel like I turned the world back on when I started listening to Green Day again. They’re like those extra metallic crayons that come in specialty packs of Crayola. You can still draw without them, but the image you create isn’t quite as fabulous. With two months to go until 21st Century Breakdown hit the stores, I started listening to the boys after a year of letting my albums collect dust.

Suddenly I could get through an entire novel again, sometimes in one sitting. Suddenly I could write again. My mind became a sponge, soaking up all the paint spilled across the world. Green Day leads me through the streets of my mind with a foggier sense of direction, but a clearer sense of purpose than before. They’re more than music.

When I think Green Day, one of their songs doesn’t automatically pop into my mind. No, it’s their stories & their convictions that stick to the edges of my eyes. I don’t think you could truly love a band for four years without that happening. You have to see them all stripped to their cores, before you can start the understand the hurricane they create in my mind. They’re not in the tabloids, but I feel like I know them better than any paparazzi princess.

Green Day offers us more than any band I can think of. They bare everything in their songs; every emotion they’ve ever felt echoes through the arenas they perform in. They shower us with their quirks in interviews. They tell tall tales & make stupid jokes and somehow you still get dizzy from their honesty. Something about that sneaky grin on Billie’s lips tells you that he’s lying & so he’s not really lying at all if he knows that you know. You know?

And if their hearts on a rusted platter isn’t enough for you, then there’s still The Network and The Foxboro Hottubs to cover any element you might be missing. They’re like a romantic with a severe case of Multiple Personality Disorder. All over the place, they fit your every need like a tongue to your lips - sweet and never too salty.

And somehow through all this, I need to explain how this can turn the world back on. How did my focus shift on its axis when I plugged back into the Green Day universe? It happens when you soak up all their honesty, all that attitude that lets them try anything & it makes you want to force your eyes open and do the same before you miss out on any piece of life. If they’re just fucked up kids from broken homes, then surely there’s someone around the corner who’s pretty much the same. Maybe I’m just the same.

They make me believe in love, in laughter, in friendship, and most of all, in myself. They prove that my best friend I met at the age of six can still be my best friend thirty years down the road. They prove that love can be found at the age of eighteen. They blur the lines of reality & shake my brain until I feel silly and don’t know which path to take. But at least they open my eyes so that I at least see all the paths & try to choose which one’s right. They cut open my heart & I don’t even mind because at least then there’ll be more room for art & love to crawl in. Bury its head in my chest & set me on my way to self discorvery, whatever that means.

I think I had a point, but I lost it in my attempt to express an impossible feeling. Green Day does that to me.

August 14, 2009 at 5:37 pm [ Category: Essay, Personal ]

Walking Contradictions
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 11 ]

Whenever a band puts out an album with political content, especially if they haven’t been as explicitly political in the past, the reactions of fans and critics alike tend to be based on their own political and personal views.

Green Day’s style of writing political lyrics is from a deeply personal perspective, and that invites listeners to inject their own interpretations into what the band is saying. Some choose to deny the band’s political statements altogether — I can’t count how many fans I’ve heard over recent years saying that American Idiot isn’t really all that political, or claiming that the band members somehow respect (okay, I think that may be true enough) or embrace (sorry, but… no way!) all political perspectives. Some just whine that they want the old Green Day back. And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, people who lean to the left politically tend to either wish that Green Day were more explicit in condemning social injustices and wrongdoings by our political leaders, or they assume that Green Day’s condemnation is more forceful or more direct than can actually be read into their words.

I’ve been guilty of it myself, sometimes wanting Green Day to get on a soapbox and tell people what they really think — and I may be guilty of assuming that what the guys think is closer to what I myself believe than it actually is. Still, there’s no denying that the members of Green Day got their political education from the radical left, from punk rock and a place like Gilman St., and that they are highly critical not just of the most egregious wrongdoings of the Bush administration but also of our culture of apathetic complacency and hypocrisy.

But that’s where their message gets confusing. Not because Green Day’s message lacks focus, but because those responsible for being so apathetic, complacent, and hypocritical that we don’t know what do with the mess we’re in, are all of us, collectively. Including the members of Green Day, who live in society along with the rest of us. Bands are only able to serve as sounding boards. They can hold up a mirror to ourselves, speak to us about our own feelings of frustration and disconnectedness, but they can’t change the conditions we live by. They can encourage us to act, but they can’t tell us how we should act. They’re musicians, and musicians, even the most radical among them, have always been an echo chamber, a means to explain our feelings and share them with a larger collective. Musicians are not, and never have been, the originators of social movements.

There’s an article on Rebel Frequencies that makes some insightful points. Although I don’t agree with any of the examples the author gives as to why Green Day’s message is contradictory and confusing (and I generally don’t agree with many of the points in the article), I think he hits the nail on the head when he says:

Green Day do not have at their disposal the full extent of the ideas that the Clash did. We do not live in the aftermath of a 1968; we are building from scratch. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that this kind of earnest radicalism (however vague it might be) has become increasingly watered down by a mushy liberalism.

But we can’t fault Green Day for the absence of a larger social movement and a coherent ideology that they can look to in order to ground their own ideals. What our society offers up is a lot of static noise (yeah, like the song): bits and pieces blared at us from TV screens and radio dials. Most of these soundbites that buzz around us like flies aim to obfuscate rather than clarify. That’s what Green Day is reacting to.

Green Day’s music has always been deeply and unfailingly honest. If they were to come to some arbitrary conclusion and offer it up as a solution to society’s problems, they would be betraying their own ideals, and us, the fans. Accepting contradictions is not a weakness, because the truth is not easily summed up or tied up neatly. It’s full of inconsistencies. Owning up to that, and doing so honestly, is not simply done: it takes a lot of clarity, paradoxically, to see many different, contradictory angles at the same time. And it takes a lot of artistry to write about confusion and paradoxes in a way that touches people, and that allows them to recognize feelings that they themselves have had but didn’t know how to express. That’s one of the things that gives Green Day’s songs so much richness, and it’s also why they ring so true.

August 8, 2009 at 6:21 pm [ Category: Essay, Articles ]

Heaven in Madison Square Garden
Posted by Amanda [ Comments: 4 ]

“What am I, nothin’ here blue eyes?” the usher playfully asked me as I tried to zoom past the entrance to Tower D.

“Nah, we’re sorry,” I said. “We thought we had to go over there, because our tickets say ‘Tower C’”.

“Lemme see,” he said, smiling as he took the page I held out to him. “Oh! You’re in heaven.”

How right he was.

As the Kaiser Chiefs cleared the stage the excitement grew. The minutes passed by painfully slowly while the crew set up the stage. The pink bunny kept us entertained, but even he wasn’t what we were waiting for. So close. So very, very close. Then there was darkness and a rising scream. It was on.

There was so much to love about the show Monday night I hardly know where to start. There was the massive singalong to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” thousands of people roaring the words at the stage like their lives depended on it. There was “Disappearing Boy” with Billie pounding away on trusty old Blue. There was the girl who played guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia” and absolutely nailed it. Every time I thought we’d hit the high point the band made us climb even higher. I know that might seem gushy, but it’s true. When Tre attacked his drums for “21 Guns” I could have done backflips, the energy was so electrifying.

At one point I glanced down and realized just how vast a sea of people there was below me. Every one of them had their eyes trained on Billie, ready to wave their arms in the air and yell “Heeeeey ooooh!”. For once we had found something to do together, rather than using cellphones and petty differences to block each other out. Which brings me back to the singalong of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. It echoed to the rafters. Perfectly focused, we roared, “Sometimes I wish someone up there will find me/ till then I walk alone!” That’s the power of Green Day’s music. No one was going to miss that line because everyone knew how it felt to spend a night in aimless wandering. Everyone knew that isolation could eat at their hope, but they were determined to walk on anyway. In that moment I thought, I can do this. I can take it and I will survive. Go on, universe, just you try to mess with me. There were quite a few times I lost myself singing along with the entire arena spellbound. I stepped out of my life just long enough to regain a little bit of faith in the world. Those will be my fondest memories.

After the first encore Billie Joe strode across the stage saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” more times than I could count. He pointed at several people in the crowd to really bring home the point. Well Billie, you don’t know who I am, or who most of the people in that arena were, but I have to say one thing. The one thing that echoed in my mind long after the confetti had fallen. Thank you. I’m in heaven.

July 29, 2009 at 1:17 am [ Category: Essay, Personal, Concerts, Reviews ]

Thoughts on Green Day
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 2 ]

~Jim, whose blog I’ve been reading for years, wrote a thoughtful piece about Green Day: “Rather than taking the clichéd route and label the band sellouts, it might be more instructive to recognize the natural development of a talented songwriter, like Billie Joe Armstrong, and the ongoing evolution of a band, as it hones its chops and artistic vision.”

July 24, 2009 at 8:05 pm [ Category: Essay, News Sidebar ]

Television Dreams
Posted by Elly [ Comments: 3 ]

Green Day videos- It should be another art form, right?
I for one, love music videos, ever since I was really little; back when “Pop Up Video” was on all the time. I’d get up in the mornings and watch it with my Dad, who would explain to me about the bands and tell me a little story of when he watched the same videos. It’s little moments like these that make music so awesome; how deeply it has been influencing my life. So when I first laid eyes on a Green Day music video, it was a welcome experience. I can understand how some may view music videos as really corny companions to good songs or just a lame oppertunity for the band to make some money. I believe, on the other hand, It should be an oppertunity to make an artistic statement.
The first glimpse of Green Day I saw was “American Idiot.” It was the first time I saw them, all angry and righteous and covered in green slime. I mean it when I say I’d never seen anything like it; my brain soaked up everything it could in those rip-roaring three minutes. Suddenly I had faces to go with the names I’d been hearing. And I just had to know what it was they were trying to tell me. I thought it was the coolest thing- all that green slime and how the band was jumping around like a trio of Ritalin kids. I always remember Tre running around his drum kit in slow motion, sticks flailing madly, or Billie Joe throwing his guitar to the floor and all the green slime came flying up.
I was very happy when I learned more videos were soon to follow. In all honesty, I’ve seen the ones for “Holiday” and “Boulevard” like, a million times. I was really taken in by the artistic side of it all, mainly because I’m an artist myself and I’m perceptive to that kind of thing. I loved how they managed to capture the style of the album so well.
The sad thing about all this is that VH1 played more videos in 2005 than it does now…how awful. Anyway, I used to wake up in the mornings and it would just be me and the television for awhile, and that is what I would watch. For some reason, it’s such a fond memory: wake ing up at eight in the morning to catch “Holiday” on VH1 while eating a bowl of watermelon for breakfast. After awhile, it came routine: get up, eat watermelon, watch Green Day.
I quickly learned to hate some of the other videos I had to sit through before the guys would come on: Coldplay’s ‘Speed of Sound,’ Lifehouse’s, ‘You and Me,’ and the Foo Fighters’ ‘Best of You.’ (I actually really like that band now, but has anyone seen that video? Jeez.) And Mariah Carey! Argh…I wanted Billie to invade her video and clobber her over the head with his guitar…but I digress. I would get mad when one of those videos took Green Day’s place in the Top Twenty Countdown, too. ;)
I watched “Holiday” too much- maybe.
I knew all the drumming, and the guitar cues. It took me the longest time to figure out Mike was Sid Vicious in the bar scene, Billie got in a fight with himself and that Tre was the woman in drag (Seriously!) She did seem familar… Clearly this was my favorite video, too; it gave me the first impression of the band. I think that is what videos are for, actually: a way to connect with the fans. They tell stories using the band as characters, they carry messages, and of course, they attempt at being perfect companions to their songs. I love the new videos of “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns,” the latter being my fave of the two. I think it’s great the guys are still making videos and giving a round of new fans the chance to see them, and maybe give them a message or two.
Their videos are rooted in personal things for me; I fondly remember one morning after spending the night at my sister’s house, when my two little nieces woke up with me and we cuddled together on the couch as “Holiday” came on. They loved it, giggling at the crazy antics and singing the chorous with me, inspite of the fact they made up most of the words. They wanted to see it again every time they saw me after that. They’re much older now, about six and seven, and recently I asked them if they remembered, ‘the Guys in the Car.’ They smiled at me and told me they did. So, for old time’s sake, I played it for them on the computer, with one kid in my lap and the other pulling up a chair beside me.
That’s pretty cool for just one measly music video. ‘It’s just music’ my butt.

July 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm [ Category: Essay, Personal, Videos ]

Posted by Amanda [ Comments: 3 ]

One of the things I love most about 21st Century Breakdown is that it doesn’t quite fit in my head. I’ve listened to it over and over and I still find myself surprised. At first I thought it was weird and a little too hopeless. Then I realized that Green Day had done it again. They had put words to the vague uneasy feelings floating around in my head. It’s as if they knew what I was thinking even before I did. It’s a strange world we live in now, caught between hope and a sense of impending disaster. We aren’t used to this kind of tightrope. But Green Day hasn’t lost their fighting spirit, and neither should we.

I was listening to “21 Guns” today when I noticed the coursing energy of the guitar and drums under what I thought was a really sad song. The music was fighting back against the despair even as it expressed it. I think that’s the most important thing to remember when the world is going to hell. You don’t have to stand for it, but neither do you have to pretend it isn’t happening. In the end life doesn’t make any sense no matter what direction it’s taking. This album full of mariachi band-infused songs and complex arrangements is a perfect reflection of the way things can change instantly. It helps clear some of the clutter we accumulate around ourselves. What’s left really is a breakdown. People have lost their homes and the government has taken over in ways the happy haze of the 90s could never have predicted. It’s funny how often ideas that start out seeming crazy end up making perfect sense.

21st Century Breakdown takes a little more getting used to than American Idiot did. It doesn’t seem to tell people what they want to hear, because there is no one figure or institution to use as a target of the blame. It can’t be interpreted in so straightforward a fashion. I think that’s precisely the point. Where American Idiot identified clear sources of problems and tried to imagine a solution, 21st Century Breakdown wades farther in to find that this is much more complicated than we thought. It isn’t about small town dreams and finding your way anymore. It’s abound finding your way in a world tilted widely on its axis. The rules have changed. Luckily we always have Green Day to help us puzzle it out. It’s going be a hell of a ride.

P.S. I’m going to be at the Madison Square Garden show on July 27th, up in section 420 something. If you’re around too, wave at the specks on the ceiling. One of them is bound to be me :).

June 2, 2009 at 12:58 am [ Category: Essay, Personal, New Album ]

Larry Livermore on “21st Century Breakdown”
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 4 ]

Larry Livermore, the founder of Lookout Records and arguably the person who gave Green Day their first break by signing them to Lookout, wrote a wonderful piece about the band and the new album. [Via]

It’s so refreshing to read an essay by someone whose attitude is not, “Gee they were some dumb band who sang about masturbation, and look, they made a great album. Who woulda thunk?” Livermore, and he’s someone who would know, makes no bones about saying that Green Day has always been great. It’s in their blood. Their commitment to music and to its artistry and craftsmanship has always been unshakable, from the very first songs they put out when they were only 16.

Larry says he’s not a classic rock kind of guy. I’m not normally a classic rock kind of gal either. In fact I quite dislike classic rock, and probably not for the same reasons as Larry Livermore, who is himself a musician and presumably can understand the subtleties of many genres of music in ways that I cannot. I usually can’t appreciate it because it’s not direct in the way that punk rock is. And yet with 21st Century Breakdown, which is not at all simple or straightforward but is rich with nuances and changes, I find myself loving it more with every listen. Somehow Green Day crafted an album that is both complex and direct. It’s full of artistry and beauty but it also grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

Larry writes:

This is music for the ages. All the songs about girls are still out there, and will be as thrilling and enjoyable to listen to as they always were, but this is a band who have grown up without growing old, who positively inspire me with their ability to transcend all the depressing and corrupting influences of pop culture in general and the music business in particular to produce far and away the best work of their career.

The old songs are wonderful, and if it’s possible their new songs are even more wonderful. It’s a daunting feat. Will Green Day ever cease to amaze us?

[By the way, if you want to read the entire 2001 interview that Livermore quotes from, it’s here.]

May 11, 2009 at 9:55 am [ Category: Essay, New Album ]

Lost for Words
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 4 ]

Whew, I’m at a loss for words… So much Green Day, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed! I wanted to write something about the new songs, but I’m still a bit frazzled by them. I’ll admit I’m not very sophisticated when it comes to music — mostly I just feel it in my gut — so there’s not a lot I would be able to say, but even my gut is feeling a bit churned up. I think I may like my Green Day best when it’s stripped down and raw, so I’m not really sure if this will be my favorite album (which in itself is something I’m reluctant to say) but it’s too early to tell without hearing the whole opus all laid out in its complete and complex glory. (By the time this is posted, the whole album may be available to listen to, but I haven’t heard it yet as I’m writing this.) The very fact that I can’t quite come to grips with what I’ve heard so far is probably a good sign: there’s so much you can’t take it all in!

The song I’ve been enjoying the most, and this may be in part because I’ve listened to it more, since it’s been out longer, is “Know Your Enemy.” It’s so direct, such a delicious kick in the head.

And I’m liking that even in interviews the band are readier to say what they mean than when American Idiot first came out: they seemed a little shy then, perhaps because they were a bit apprehensive about how the album would be received. I’ve always admired their refusal to try to tell other people what to think, and in a recent interview, they specifically say that their album can be enjoyed on whatever level anyone chooses, whether it’s to listen for a specific message or just to rock out. But they’re also saying now that they were a bit surprised that Republicans liked American Idiot. Even Howie Klein picked up on Billie Joe’s recent comment: “I had Republican friends who were really into American Idiot… that’s cool; it ain’t about you, but that’s cool. Or it is about you, but whatever…” It may be more direct than before, but I think that’s still a very fair and non-judgmental remark.

There’s a very well thought out review of 21st Century in the Chicago Tribune that looks at the message-oriented aspect of the album (and the author is, thankfully, not at all lost for words):

He ventures only one piece of advice: “Silence is the enemy/Against your urgency.” In other words, participate or perish. That sums up the tone of the album, and presents the biggest difference between the new Green Day and the old, the one that celebrated slacker indifference on “Dookie” and the one that challenges a generation of listeners to engage with the world around them on “21st Century Breakdown.”

I would challenge the statement that Dookie was about indifference. I think it was more than anything about frustration, anxiety about the future, and self doubt. (And no, I don’t mean the, ahem, sexual frustration that was the topic of Dookie’s famous hit…) The Guardian also talks about the political content of 21st Century, but it feels less focused. They had a better article on the subject last January, if you’re in the mood for some reading. But virtually all articles insist on painting Green Day as snotty goofballs prior to American Idiot. Not that they didn’t — and still do — enjoy a nice dose of snottiness and goofing around (and would we have Green Day any other way?), but that doesn’t mean they weren’t serious in their thinking, nor that it didn’t show up loud and clear in their songs throughout their career.

Notes: If you haven’t seen some of these already, don’t miss:
~Green Day’s performance of “Know Your Enemy” on Germany’s TV Total was amazingly good. The YouTube video was deleted and then reposted. If it’s gone, download it here. (You may need the VLC player.)
~The link to Ross Halfin’s photos was in the sidebar, but you have to click through within the site to find all the photos, and there are loads. Links to more pages are in the tiny thumbnails at the bottom of the page.
~Most of the video interviews with the band are a bit repetitive, perhaps not surprisingly since they all seem to have been conducted in the same room, one right after the other. The one with IGN had some different questions, and the band acknowledged their broad appeal to all ages (uh, including some of us…) And they make a funny joke about appealing to broads.
~Keep checking Comcast for new videos, including the live performances from the Fox Theater, here or here. (Some can be downloaded on GDC.)

May 8, 2009 at 3:16 am [ Category: Essay, Videos, Photos, Reviews ]

Billie Joe Armstrong: Still Punk After All These Years
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 2 ]

Update: The author posted some additional behind-the-scenes info on the interview on MTV Newsroom. [Fixed the link… sorry.]
MTV has a really good interview, including a short video, with Billie Joe. They ask him if Green Day is still a punk band, and he says:

“Oh yeah, that’s ground zero for us. Coming from Gilman Street, we saw the most creative people I’ve ever seen in my life. There was a band called Schlong, and they did ‘West Side Story,’ and they called it ‘Punk Side Story.’ And then there’s bands like NoMeansNo, [who made] a record like Wrong that’s completely insane. None of those are conventional — what we call ‘punk-rock bands’ — but they are, in their own right, the most creative, the most punk. It’s about being creative. Anytime we write something that’s kind of scary and we feel a bit vulnerable, we always just say, ‘Just go there.’ ”

Forgive me for gushing a bit, but I love to hear him say that. We’ve had to listen to interminable whining from so many fronts insisting that Green Day is not punk, usually offered up with a sneer. It got so bad in the Dookie years that Green Day themselves started to say they weren’t a punk band, just to get out from under the barrage of criticism and vitriol. And there has by now been so much back and forth — decades of it! — about what constitutes punk that it’s become a weary topic. Let’s just say the the essence of “punk” is not easy to define. (NWWM’s own Amanda has some thoughts about the topic, here.)

The reason I’ve loved punk and why it has resonated with me is that it doesn’t shy away from being honest, even when that honesty doesn’t make the person wearing it as a badge of honor (and/or shame) look particularly good. Even when that unvarnished honesty broadcasts one’s vulnerabilities, or stupidity, or lack of polish, or anger, or even unbridled rage, it comes from a perspective that is unwilling to give in to lies and spin. Green Day is such a huge band that whatever vulnerabilities or confusion the band members choose to let out — and they have laid them out in spades, with every album — they are out there in a big way, open to the scrutiny of millions of people. Being a punk band that sells tens of millions of records is an act of courage.

But it’s also humble. The guys in Green Day have pulled out their hearts and strapped them to their sleeves so we could all share in all of the complicated, contradictory human emotions that are so artfully laid out in their songs. They may say — in that aw-shucks way that they do — that they did all that for themselves, but they did it for us too.

I didn’t cozy up to punk until after I heard Green Day. As I’ve said before, I had a fascination with the Dead Kennedys in the early 80s, but I would have been unable to explain even to myself why I liked them so much. Green Day’s brand of punk is much more welcoming: it invites you in rather than intentionally putting you off, (as many punk bands do, by sort of snarling at you). All that angry snarling leaves you feeling on the outside and perplexed if you happen to be, like me, an unfortunate soul who doesn’t instinctively get it. But once Green Day clued me in, I was a convert. And not just to songs about love, disappointment, or bitterness, like Green Day’s early work, but also to angry political songs, because they all are about deeply felt emotions and they all come from the heart. (I’m not saying all punk songs are equally good, of course, or that they all have that quality.)

Billie Joe talks about this in the MTV interview: the same relentless soul searching and truth-telling that applies to writing songs that are about the more private kinds of emotions also applies to political music. “I’ve always said if you’re going to write a political song, it’s gotta come from the same places that you’d write a love song,”

[On a nuts and bolts note about the site, if you follow the site via the RSS feed, you may have noticed that some recent posts from the news sidebar have not been updating in your RSS reader. There has been so much Green Day news lately that I didn’t want the feed to turn into a morass, so I’ve excluded some posts from the feed.]

May 1, 2009 at 1:41 am [ Category: Essay, Personal, Videos, Articles, Interviews ]

Political Message or Delightful Thrill? Both
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 3 ]

There are two good new articles out on Green Day, one is a short blurb from Female First that is the reaction of a happy, excited fan, and Times Online has a long, thoughtful piece in which the band was interviewed, and they got the guys’ own angst and excitement about putting their “baby” out for all to hear.

It’s been a bit frustrating for me personally to read so many headlines lately saying, “Billie Joe says the album nearly killed him!” and “Billie Joe is a fan of Robert Pattinson!” So it’s a relief to read an article about the seriousness of purpose that Green Day puts into everything they do. Times Online writes:

The album is a masterpiece because it realises its ambitions. Musically, it may honour and channel the spirits of the Who, Bowie, Queen, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash, to breathtaking, to thrilling effect. Lyrically, it may succeed in capturing the contradictions, vulnerabilities and longing for harmony that thrum through Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool, their country, and humanity as a whole. But its real triumph, in an age of trimming, of market testing, of self-censorship and lowest common denominators, is not simply to aim insanely high, but to make it to the summit.

It’s a credit to Green Day that they can generate so many different kinds of excitement about their work, from the lowbrow and tabloidish to the delighted gushing of adoring fans, to the thoughtfulness of serious critics and commentators. I’m not sure if it’s exactly true that Billie Joe is “now regarded as a spokesman for an alternative American dream,” as the Times writes. The reaction to the political content of Green Day’s work is sometimes the hardest to see, among all the other verbiage floating around.

I myself am of two minds. I love that Green Day has a strong political message, one that I think is very necessary in our times, and I find myself wishing it would get more attention, but I can also completely relate to the words on Female First: “Know Your Enemy blends their usual political lyrics with a pop-punk beat that leaves you leaping around the room like a complete fool. There are no words to describe how sound this ‘comeback’ single is, and how pleased the fans who have waited so long for this will be, I could rant and rave about it all day - but I’ll just say this, Billie Joe, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt are back; and they’re still fu**ing awesome.”

I’ll admit that the video for “Know Your Enemy” — which I loved for its visual simplicity: evocative images interspersed with footage of the band singing and pounding their hearts out, and no silly gimmicks — had me leaping around like a complete fool, but it also made me want to go out and march in the streets in outrage at the mess that our politicians and their corporate cronies have left us in. MTV Buzzworthy was one of the few outlets that talked about the political message of the song:

The enemy is your instinct to go along quietly in the name of comfort. Green Day [have] written a rallying cry, reminding the world that it wasn’t a president that put us where we are. It was our own silent apathy. And on top of that, no president — no matter how inspiring — can get us out of our mess if we continue to choose complacency over responsibility.

But when the author added, “Course all that’s just one man’s opinion. What do you think?” no one took him up on trying to answer his question.

I suppose the answer is slightly complicated, because Green Day are not and never have been up on a soapbox. They write from their gut, and everything they say comes out of their personal feelings. This song, and the album as a whole, is not exactly a call to arms, because they would never be so presumptuous as to tell other people what to do. The rallying cry is there, but it’s from one band’s perspective. The hard work of figuring out what each of should do is left wide open, and Green Day generously and openly includes the option of enjoying the thrill of the music and leaping around like a delightedly happy fool.

April 26, 2009 at 2:38 am [ Category: Essay, Personal, Articles, New Album ]

Billie Joe Talks About The News, TV, and Hopefulness
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 3 ]

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’m sure: Green Day are in a class of their own. I’m not even referring to their music here, which is of course in its own special category of wonderfulness, at least to those of us who are hopelessly devoted fans, but to who they are in their outlook and ethos — yes, I’m using that word even though Billie Joe used it (in the new Spinner interview) as a funny sort of commentary on the Sex Pistols being too, ahem, pure to accept the hall of fame’s recognition.

That they have remained so rock-solid about their views and their own perception of themselves as a band in spite of their enormous success is a credit to themselves, but also to the solidity of the ideals that nurtured them. I always go back to their history, their roots in DIY punk rock and its political and social consciousness, and something even more fundamental and intangible about the punk outlook: a belief that what is true and honest and just actually matters. Rather than trying to explain it myself, I’m going to quote one of my favorite writers on the subject, Scott Puckett:

To me, what mattered about punk was the promise it held out to anyone who bothered to listen. It wasn’t the ideology or the politics, though those were also integral. Simply put, it was the humanity contained in the music, the understanding that there are certain fundamental things that all people can understand - loneliness, frustration, hurt, fear, etc. - and that just like everything else in life, punk would face it head on. It was uplifting, hopeful and righteous. As far as I’m concerned, punk is, ultimately, a few things - just, righteous, determined, egalitarian, welcoming. It’s what empathy sounds like.

That may sound over the top, but that’s exactly what it isn’t. The essence of this kind of thought is that the things that people actually live matter. Failings, vulnerability, anger, despair, those are the things that life is made of. There’s a tendency throughout modern culture to seek distance from feelings that are icky and scary, to keep them at arm’s length through irony or snarkiness. So many of the artifacts of popular culture aim to do just that, whether it’s mindless pop music, trashy entertainment, or news programs that are not really about the news and don’t bother to tell actual facts but obfuscate them instead, to keep people confused and off balance, and ultimately dulled and uninformed.

To me that’s what Billie Joe’s interview with Spinner is about. It’s both a strong condemnation of the misinformation and confusion that pervades media culture, and an acknowledgment that, yes, as fatuous as it is, dumbed-down TV is part of the fabric of life too, and it’s worth commenting on because it’s so pervasive (“It’s reflected on the record and it’s also reflected in society.”). It would be tempting to take an intellectual stance, rise above it, but that would just be another artifice, a way to seek distance from something all too real and ever-present. And that’s not Billie Joe’s style. Nor is it his style to focus only on the negative: Obama’s election represents a real reaction by the public not to continue to accept the spin and deception that brought us eight years of the disastrous Bush presidency, but to seek out something good in its stead. Not that Obama is perfect, but the collective embrace of his positive message by tens of millions at home and billions around the world is, to many of us, a tangible sign of progress and hopefulness. Billie Joe says:

And that does give you faith in the idea of America — it can be a progressive country and we can dig ourselves out, because that was a bold statement. We dug ourselves out of George Bush by putting this new intelligent human being into office.

But then we get back to the media’s reaction to the Spinner interview. Browsing the internet for items about Green Day yields dozens of references and quotes from the interview, and virtually every one of them focuses on Billie Joe’s choice of actors to play Gloria and Christian, or the American Idol appearance where Green Day’s song had to be pre-taped to bleep out the swear words. Is it really any wonder that Billie Joe is unimpressed with the information superhighway?

April 19, 2009 at 8:59 am [ Category: Essay, Interviews ]

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