As I’ve already discussed thus far in this series, Green Day’s 2004 masterpiece American Idiot is incredibly multifaceted. Part punk rock concept album (in the vein of the Who’s Quadrophenia) and part social commentary on post-9/11 America, the album offers both an endearing yet tragic coming-of-age tale and a formal expression of the fear and sadness felt within the country at the turn of the century. While the full-length has already featured plenty of wonderful examples of these sentiments, its eleventh track, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, is easily the most poignant, striking, and universal one up until now. A heartbreaking eulogy to the losses of its central character, vocalist, and even the nation in which it takes place, the song is devastatingly somber, hypnotic, and beautiful. In fact, in terms of pure songwriting, it make be the best composition the trio has ever written.
Latest Blog Posts
Up until this point in American Idiot, St. Jimmy (the alias of Jesus of Suburbia) has been wondering around the streets of America alone, unsure of just about everything in his life. He’s felt a calling to incite change and rebellion, not only for himself, but for the country as a whole; unfortunately, without anyone else to help him, the task is easier said than done. But, with the arrival of Whatshername, a snarky teenage girl who seems to be his match both romantically and anarchically, St. Jimmy has found a new purpose in life. Together, they can complement each other while also challenging the conformity and complacency of the country—or so they thought. As we see in the ninth and tenth tracks of the album—“Extraordinary Girl” and “Letterbomb”—this relationship soon crumbles. It’s a riotous and bitter pill to swallow.
Despite all of its political overtones, American Idiot is, above all else, an emotional and personal tale of teenage angst and uncertainty. Sure, there’s plenty of social commentary about the psychological and governmental state of America post-9/11, but the heart of the record is the saga of a punk rebel who struggles with identity, romance, and acceptance. Each of these attributes are brought to the surface with endearing aggression on the LP’s seventh and eighth tracks, “Give Me Novacaine” and “She’s a Rebel”. Lost, confused, and yet born again and anew, the protagonist must now come to terms with both his new persona and new object of affection.
Thus far in American Idiot, Jesus of Suburbia has left his hometown, abandoned everything he thought he knew, and set out alone to find the truth. However, as we saw in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, this newfound purpose and solidarity has left him isolated, lonely, and scared, all the while questioning if he’s really on the right path. With the next two songs in the sequence—“Are We the Waiting” and “St. Jimmy”—we see him band together with others who are also going through the same search for introspection and morality, as well create a whole new personality with which he can lead them.
When we last left Jesus [of Suburbia] (on April 1st), he was embarking on a journey to find his figurative fortune whilst declaring his freedom from both the condemnatory nature of his town and the tyrannical pretense of his country. In other words, he was enjoying his “Holiday” from the lies and limitations of the world around him. However, much like the dramatic realization that strikes the impulsive lovers at the end of The Graduate, the party ends as soon as reality hits (on April 2nd), and Jesus is suddenly confronted with loneliness and hopelessness as he faces the future alone. He has no company or guidance as he ventures down the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, and it’s quite the bitter pill to swallow.
"PopMatters is on a short summer publishing break. We resume Monday, July 6th.READ the article