Monday, May 4, 2009
What happened to this band?
Let's say this, they definitely know their new demographic, but I just wish they hadn't changed their sound in order to appeal to tweens and pop-punk princesses. Green Day used to stand for something, maybe picking your nose and making farting noises, but at least they weren't pretentious and self-involved. Their original sound, which lasted (in my opinion) through 1997's Nimrod, was less Linkin Park angsty and more teenage rebellious. They were punk because they captured the emotions and humor of being young, now that they have matured, the band is so much more about faux-punk with their pseudo-riot instigating music. This is clearly exemplified in their totally manufactured/produced new image. When Dookie came out, the band wore whatever they found laying around their house, but now they wear matching black, faux-anarchist gear, almost a Sex Pistols-revival fashion. Guyliner, faux-hawks, matching black and red outfits with ties of course. They act like are incredibly depressed and oppressed by the man, but in reality, their new image and sound helped to propel American Idiot to over 5x platinum in the US. That album sold over 12 million copies worldwide, more than every album since Dookie combined. Talk about a reinvention. Back in the early 90's, the band looked so much like typical teenagers that during Woodstock 1994, a security guard confused bassist Mike Dirnt for a fan trying to get on stage and punched several of his teeth out. And speaking of Woodstock 1994, I present the infamous mud fight:
The band used to be obnoxious, now they are so completely mainstream. This is further exemplified by the band's hiring of legendary producer Butch Vig for their new album. For their previous 4 albums (not counting Warning), the band had worked with Rob Cavallo, but felt they needed a change that led them to work with the man who worked with Nirvana on Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins on Gish and Siamese Dream.
Billie Joe Armstrong declares, "This album is more... religious", and is influenced by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles, to name a few. The previous work sounded much more like classic punk bands such as The Ramones, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, The Jam, and the Buzzcocks. Their early work had distorted guitar, fast, manic drums, and high-treble bass. They wrote short, fast-paced, humorous songs, now their songs come in multiple parts or are 9 minute rock operas like "Jesus of Suburbia."
They are trying too hard to become the next U2. When did a band that started out singing about the joys of squatting in a burned out house in West Oakland come to the conclusion that it was their job to save the world? U2 maintains its air of world savior, but does it knowingly. Green Day on the other hand, tries to act in a similar manner through the guise of being punk, anarchist, and counterculture rebels. Their angst-ridden lyrics amount to nothing more than preaching to teens who don't understand the intricacies of the world's problems. So, while Green Day's lyrics have escalated from being about nonsense to being about world problems, their target demographic remains ignorant teens who like to act like they know what's going on in the world, but get all their information from sources like The Daily Show and South Park. So when Armstrong sings, "Well, it’s enough to make you sick/To cast a stone and throw a brick," he's not appealing to people who really know what's going on, instead he's instigating a sort of anger in teens that only adds to their confusion. And worst of all, the band tries to act as if they aren't doing what they are doing, which contributes to all the criticism the band has begun receiving.
Jon Pareles of the New York Times has this to say about the band's new sound: At a time when younger punk-pop bands are singing about girl trouble and professional envy, Green Day has dared to offer something far denser and more demanding: a whirlwind of thoughts about activism, redemption and destruction. The rage and sorrows of “American Idiot” are pushed even further in “21st Century Breakdown,” in songs where idealism and the urge to annihilate are constantly grappling, never far apart.
Though the band has received quite a bit of acclaim for the later work, including multiple Grammy nominations, many in the punk scene and music industry see the band's later work as hypocritical and insincere (since ingenuine isn't a word).
Legendary Sex Pistols member Johnny Rottern had this to say about Green Day, "So there we are fending off all that and it pisses me off that years later a wank outfit like Green Day hop in and nick all that and attach it to themselves. They didn't earn their wings to do that and if they were true punk they wouldn't look anything like they do."
At the same time, The Killers' front man Brandon Flowers describes American Idiot as "calculated Anti-Americanism." He felt that the whole image and production that went into the album was a stunt. For instance, the live CD/DVD was recorded in the UK and Germany, rather than in the US. The concert DVD shows thousands of Europeans singing along to "American Idiot." Flowers said, "I just thought it was really cheap. To go to a place like England or Germany and sing that song - those kids aren't taking it the same way that he meant it. And [Billie Joe Armstrong] knew it."
The constant whine and depression that has become Green Day's sound is mirrored by their apocalyptic, graffiti-styled artwork. This only adds to their faux-punk image, which deters true punk fans.
Sure, there is something to be said for maturing musically, but I don't think the band has matured as much as they've turned away from their original fans in favor of the Hot Topic, suburban mall tween crowd. This band used to play 924 Gilman, now they cater to the same crowd as Paramore and Linkin Park. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that the band has such lofty goals, but the reality of the situation is that they aren't actually leading the cause for any change in the world. I have nothing against them singing socially-conscious songs, but doing so with such an air of self-righteousness is appalling and depressing.
P.S. This was our 100th post. That's pretty cool.
Posted by akshay at 8:19 AM