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Green Day – America’s Satirical Idiots

Ever since they exploded onto the music scene with their catchy-power-pop-punk album, Dookie eleven years ago, Green Bay has remained one of America’s most popular bands.  

With the release and subsequent success of Dookie, Green Day was widely credited as the single largest influence in reviving the popularity of punk music.  Green Day’s popularity opened many doors for a flood of American neo-punk, punk metal, and third wave ska revivalists. 

Now eleven years after the release of Dookie, Green Day is just as popular as ever, thanks in large part to their latest album, American Idiot, which has been billed as a “punk rock opera” that chronicles the stories of some average characters.  Growing increasingly social conscious with age and experience, the title track, American Idiot, was named in reaction to the confusing and warped scene that is American pop culture.  The album has been one of the most critically-acclaimed and commercially successful album releases in 2004, and have earned the band many accolades including nominations for Best Album at the prestigious Grammy Awards. 

Although they achieved commercial success with their first major-label release, Green Day was by no means an overnight sensation.  The northern Californian band consists of Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer and guitarist), Mike Dirnt (born Michael Pritchard; bassist), and Tré Cool (born Frank Edwin Wright III; drummer).  At the age of 12, Tré Cool became a member of the band The Lookouts, who generated much attention in the Berkeley, California punk scene.  In 1987, Armstrong (15 years old) and Dirnt (16 years old) formed The Sweet Children.  In 1989, the Children renamed themselves Green Day, after their first semi-successful song.

Green Day signed with the independent label, Lookout Records in 1989, and released their first EP, 1,000 Hours and Slappy in 1990.  The album was well received by the Californian hardcore punk scene, and the next year, they produced the album 39/Smooth and released it in 1991.  At this point Armstrong and Dirnt enlisted the drumming services of Tre Cool.  Green Day kicked off a national tour the day after Dirnt graduated from high school in 1990 before 1,000 Hours and Slappy.  After the tout, Green Day returned to the studio to produce their second album, Kerplunk, in 1992.  By this point, Green Day had established themselves as a force in the underground punk scene and already had a strong and loyal following.  Their underground success from Kerplunk led to a wave of interests from major record label.  In April 1993, the band decided to sign with Reprise Records, leaving Lookout on friendly terms.          

In the spring of 1994, Green Day released their first major-label debut, Dookie, which right from the get-go seemed destined for greatness with its catchy hook-lines that appealed to music lovers of all genres.  The album’s first single, Longview, was played heavily by influential music station, MTV, which help supported the band’s ensuing success.  The album’s second single, Basket Case, spent five weeks on the top of the American modern rock charts, and the album’s forth single, When I Come Around, was number one of seven weeks.  

With Dookie, the band was propelled into the spotlight as one of the world’s most en vogue bands.  Besides the record success’ - the record would eventually sell over eight million copies in the United States, and ten million internationally, and would capture the 1994 Grammy for “Best Alternative Music Performance” – the personalities of the band members also contributed to their success.  Reflecting their lyrics, Billie Joe, Tre, and Mike were often engagingly hilarious in television interviews with their off-the-wall commentary, their fashion sense, and their forthrightness to the point of obnoxiousness.  Their dynamic and energetic nature carried over to their frenetic and memorable live performances.  In 1994, they became legends for their performance at Woodstock 1994 where they initiated and were involved in a monumental mud fight with the audience, leading to a light fracas where Dirnt lost his front teeth.   

Green Day quickly followed Dookie with their second studio album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995.  Although the band did not attain the commercial success they had with Dookie, the album did sell over three million copies and debuted on the U.S. music charts as the number two album.  The album also featured a number one song with J.A.R, which was also the lead song on the soundtrack of the major motion picture, Angus.   

The band recorded and released their third major-label album, Nimrod, in late 1997.  Although the record’s success was modest compared to their previous two releases – debuting at number 10 on the U.S. Billboard charts and sold 2 million copies - the album was deemed the band’s best release by critics and fans alike.  With Nimrod, Green Day demonstrated the band’s growing maturity, and their song-writing evolution to include more provocatively personal and political content, which gave the band added credibility.  The album featured one of the band’s most recognizable songs in Time of Your Life, a sentimental and sometimes sad song that exhibited the band in an “unplugged” setting, and further showcased the Green Day’s versatility.  The song would go on to be used in numerous television soundtracks including E.R. and the memorable season finale of Seinfeld.  It was around this time that the band also vastly improved their already popular live shows, and earned them "Best Live Performance" at the Kerrang awards.

Their much anticipated forth studio album, Warning, was released in the fall of 2000.  The album’s first single, Minority, rose to the number one on the Billboard Charts just four weeks after its release, making it the fastest Green Day song to reach that status.  Although Warning did reach platinum status, the band’s popularity was waning with the rise of other power-pop bands – bands that they helped open the doors for like Offspring, Rancid, and Blink 182 – Warning was hailed as the band’s most ambitious project, and many critics agreed that Green Day were taking the appropriate direction in truly becoming a great punk influence.   

Since Warning, it appeared that Green Day had fallen of the map.  They band remained relatively low key as they all devoted some time off to their respective families.  With growing age, marriage, and children, each of the band members naturally matured and gravitated towards creating meaningful music.  After Warning, the band went into the studio to write and record new material for an album.  After completing 20 tracks - an impressive album according to those few who heard it - the master tapes were stolen from the studio.  The band chose not to try and re-create the stolen album but instead started over with a vow to be even more ambitious.

Their vow would hold true with their fifth album, a conceptual punk rock opera piece – American Idiot.  With their distinctive musical muscle and sweeping, politically charged narrative, the album went on to immense commercial success and critical acclaim - the album is labeled by many as a, “masterpiece”.  The record is a rarity in effectively conveying what it feels like to live in the strange, bewildering America of the early 2000s.  With American Idiot, Green Day have reclaimed their role as Kings of Pop Punk, and solidified their status as punk icons.  

Some of the rave reviews that American Idiot has received include:

“It's exhilarating stuff, the kind of record that sets new parameters as to what is possible from a punk rock'n'roll band in the 21st century.” – Mojo Magazine

“American Idiot is one of the most politically volatile albums to come out since the ascension of the Accidental President. It's also the best album of Green Day's 12-year career.” – Austin Chronicle

“A powerful work, noble in both intent and execution.” – Q Magazine

“Green Day trumps any pretension with melody and sheer fervor”. – New York Times

“American Idiot isn't so much meticulously crafted as it is unflinchingly audacious.” – Splendid

“For all its grandiosity, American Idiot keeps its mood and method deliberately, tenaciously, and angrily on point.” - Pitchfork

At their core, Green Day were simply punk revivalists, recharging the energy of speedy, catchy three-chord punk-pop songs.  Though their music wasn't particularly innovative, they are credited for bringing the sound of late-'70s punk to a new, younger generation.  Green Day reintroduced the anger and the exuberance, as well as the off-the-wall humor, of punk into the popular consciousness.  Unlike many other punk bands, Green Day has proven it has the talent, creativity, innovation, and intelligence to maintain atop the elite list of commercially successful punk bands. 

Green Day will soon announce dates for its upcoming U.S. tour, set to begin April 15 in Miami, Florida.