photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
hindsight manipulates us all. a nearly universally CELEBRATED album like GREEN DAY's GEORGE W BUSH-era narrative paean to the domestic UNDERCLASS and UNDERREPRESENTED resistance, AMERICAN IDIOT (REPRISE, 2004), feels in retrospect almost INEVITABLE. at the time of its tracking back in 2003-2004, as depicted in the documentary HEART LIKE A HAND GRENADE (CRAZY COW PRODUCTIONS, 2015), this was hardly the case. the band had a rare mid-career miscue with WARNING (REPRISE, 2000) that saw them supposedly loosing a step with the POPULAR ZEITGEIST to a new crop of POP PUNK bands they essentially helped initiate (i.e. BLINK-182, NEW FOUND GLORY, SUM 41, GOOD CHARLOTTE, etc.).
not sure i wholly buy into that narrative, but that is the popular MYTHOLOGY surrounding the creation of AMERICAN IDIOT, which was REVOLUTIONARY and UNEXPECTED upon release and is arguably GREEN DAY's crowning achievement, even more so than their debut DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994). part of such ACCLAIM was rooted in the fact that it was perceived to be a STRIDENT middle finger to the BUSH ADMINISTRATION and their REGRESSIVE political agenda. in the early 2000s SYSTEM OF A DOWN and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE were on the outs and ROCK music was in a weird place in that it was attempting to recreate the past a la the backward-looking INDIE ROCK REVIVAL bands such as THE STROKES, WHITE STRIPES, INTERPOL, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and the like. nobody, and i mean no one, thought that GREEN DAY would be the band to create something as AUDACIOUS and thematically COMPLEX as a ROCK OPERA that was likewise brazenly POLITICAL at a time of war. it really put everyone else to shame in retrospect and influenced the style and scope of their catalogue from their on out.
whats compelling about HEART LIKE A HAND GRENADE is how DETERMINED, COMMITTED and CONFIDENT band leader and main songwriter BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG is in the studio. this was a major risk. GREEN DAY were considered relative LIGHT-WEIGHTS that in essence filled a psychic and industry VOID left by NIRVANA in the wake of their TRAGIC mid-90s implosion. in comparison to the SOMBER and POETIC directness of KURT COBAIN's lyrics and persona, ARMSTRONG was by comparison a more JOVIAL and UPBEAT character that wrote songs about the banality of everyday life. AMERICAN IDIOT changed all that in one swell swoop.
its just incredible that this recording process was documented. i have no doubt itll be parsed over decades from now by musicians inspired by ARMSTRONG's GALVANIZED response to a fucked political inflection point in AMERICAN history. lord knows what we will face in the next few decades in the wake of proto-fascist DONALD TRUMP. here's hoping he never returns to power.