Calling this album a shock is an understatement of the highest order. By the time September 2004 rolled around, Green Day had become an after-thought at best. Fans of the band will dispute this but those are true-believers. If you had said that Green Day's next album would be a blockbuster along the lines of The Police's 'Synchronicity' or Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', you would have been laughed out of the room.
But that is just what happened and more. Somehow these bratty snot-nosed punks pulled a rock opera out of their collective ass that perfectly encapsulated the malaise of Post 9/11 American consciousness. They did wha????
I will again use my son as a barometer. Cash is not huge into music. He has always loved The Beatles, he loves the music of John Williams from Star Wars fame, and he champions the music that I make out of love. As far as modern music goes, he doesn't care, and doesn't even want to. This will probably change once he hits puberty and then he'll start bringing home crazy new stuff but as of now he is in that pre-pubescent state where music just isn't all that important.
But 'American Idiot' struck a major chord with him. He wanted to read the lyrics. He wanted to talk about the meanings behind the songs. He was impressed by the longer epic tunes and equated them favorably to the longer orchestral pieces that he loves so much by Williams and other classical composers. He was/is in AWE of this album.
Now I'm not saying that because my son likes it it is great. But it pierced the dream world of a child and touched the part of his brain that is already an adult. And kids resist that stuff when you try to impose it on them. To me that says that the content of this album is so perfectly achieved that it rids him of the anxiety that contemplating adult questions naturally elicits in an 11 year old. Of course, he was 6 or 7 when it came out and that quality was even more pronounced back then. He didn't want to listen to music in the car; he wanted to talk to me about Star Wars, or Kermit, or spaceships.
For a modern punk rock opera to grab his attention so forcefully that he stopped that kid-like stream of consciousness and TOOK IT IN is a testament to the clarity and force of the songs.
We're both psyched to pick up '21st Century Breakdown' and talk about it in the car. He's almost old enough to sit up front with me.