For whatever reason, I have a distinct memory of a televised Green Day interview from almost eight years ago, when the band appeared on MuchMusic (a Canadian counterpart to MTV) to support the release of its best-of comp, International Superhits!. The brief Q&A probably stuck with me because of Billie Joe Armstrong's unflattering comparison, and subsequent demonstration, of Scott Stapp's vocal similarity to Cher. But more important, I also remember the Green Day frontman talking about how he was worried that releasing a greatest hits album might be a signal of his band's irrelevance. At the time, I was inclined to think Billie Joe should have gone with his gut.
In the years following the megamillion-selling success of 1994's Dookie, the Oakland wiseacres appeared to be on the same path to diminished sales and irrelevance as contemporaries like the Offspring and Live. Then, in 2004, came American Idiot. I have a distinct memory about that too. A few weeks after the album dropped, I went down to the record store at the mall and bought a copy, mostly because I'd been digging the title track, which was also the lead-off single. I immediately popped the disc into my car stereo. Twelve minutes later, having been blasted by "Idiot" and the epic-length "Jesus Of Suburbia," I realized--in that brief time frame--that the band mattered again.
A concept album about suburban American disappointment, the album sounded angrier and hungrier (while remaining catchy) than anything else Green Day had done. Through sheer force of imagination and skill, as well as a nation primed by George Bush to vent some anti-establishment spleen, the band reestablished itself as top-rank rock stars. Accordingly, American Idiot sold more copies than the band's previous three albums combined.
It's impossible to know how 21st Century Breakdown, the trio's follow up, will be received when it comes out on May 15. Will a second concept album about societal breakdown excite listeners the same way that the first did? Is five years too long of a gap between studio efforts? It'll be interesting to see what happens. But I'd counted Green Day out once. I won't do it again.
How do you think it'll do?
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