PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

United States of Rage and Love: Green Day - "Give Me Novacaine" and "She's a Rebel"

The seventh and eighth tracks on American Idiot solidify Jesus' transformation into St. Jimmy, as well as introduce the woman who holds onto his heart like a "hand grenade". It's emotional, powerful, and very catchy.


Green Day

American Idiot

Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2004-09-21
UK Release Date: 2004-09-20
Amazon
iTunes

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.

At its core, “Give Me Novacaine” is another ballad. Its verses feature delicate acoustic guitar chord progressions, melodic slide guitar, a straightforward drum beat, and of course, Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice at its most fragile and yearning. When the chorus hits, though, every element gets injected with adrenaline -- the guitars are crunchy and invasive, the percussion is frantic, and the vocals are in-your-face domineering. Really, this is one of the most dynamic tracks on the album, as the contrast between light and heavy instrumentation is significant and powerful. It certainly represents the thematic dissonance well.

At this point in the narrative, Jesus of Suburbia has manifested a new personality, St. Jimmy. Brash, boisterous, and very brave, St. Jimmy is the extroverted, fearless leader that Jesus never was. In a way, “Give Me Novacaine” represents the final act of the transformation, as Jesus effectively commits suicide so that St. Jimmy can take over. Lyrics like “Take away the sensation inside / Bittersweet migraine in my head” and “I get the funny feeling and that’s already / Jimmy says it’s better than here ... Tell me Jimmy, I won’t feel a thing” indicate this longing. St. Jimmy is Jesus’ savior (as I said in the previous installment, it’s very similar to how Tyler Durden “saved” the narrator in Fight Club).

Fascinatingly, as much as Jesus is definitely looking to St. Jimmy for help and answers, he’s also speaking to an unknown romantic interest (who is introduced in the next song). He says, “Give a long kiss goodnight / And everything will be alright / Tell me that I won’t feel a thing” and “Out of body and out of mind / Kiss the demons out of my dreams”. It’s thought-provoking that the band chose to suggest a new character before officially introducing her, but this song takes place on June 13th (over a month after “St. Jimmy”), so we can assume that a lot has happened in the interim that Green Day chose to imply rather than explain.

Fortunately, “She’s a Rebel” is very much the yang to the ying of “St. Jimmy”, as it’s very similar in both structure and purpose. In fact, it interrupts the previous song, just as "St. Jimmy" did to "Are We the Waiting". Another anthemic punk rock gem, its verse sections burst with hostility, as the guitar riffs are crunchy and thick, the rhythms are hypnotic, and the vocals are layered and authoritative. There’s also a start/stop rhythmic pattern that keeps listeners enticed and on edge. On the other hand, the chorus is as charming as anything else on American Idiot, as Armstrong sings an optimistic melody, backed by subtle harmonies. It’s not as multifaceted as its predecessor, but it’s still a kickass moment.

As for its sentiments, this song is clearly written from the perspective of St. Jimmy as he first notices (and becomes infatuated with) this new teenager from the wrong side of the tracks. He eventually tells us that she’s called “Whatshername” (which symbolizes the universality of their connection, as just about every heterosexual teenage male has had his own Whatshername at some point, be she a delinquent, an artist, a geek, etc.) Much like the description Jesus had for St. Jimmy, St. Jimmy tells us that “She’s a rebel / She’s a Saint / She’s the salt of the earth and she’s dangerous”.

Interestingly, this song is also the inspiration for the album’s iconic cover, as he adds, “She’s the symbol of resistance / And she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade”. There’s no doubt that St. Jimmy views her as both the love of his life and the missing piece of his rebellious mission. In this moment, he confesses that she’s essentially his soul mate: “Is she trouble? / Like I’m trouble? / Make it a double twist of fate / Or a melody that / She sings the revolution / The dawning of our lives / She brings this liberation / That I just can’t define”.

This dedication makes sense, though, when one considers how vulnerable, naïve, and desperate for validation and love St. Jimmy is. He’s essentially found a new woman for himself (as a new man), and he’s eager to solidify the partnership and start the revolution. Of course, love and lofty, grandiose ambitions rarely come to satisfactory fruition, so things won’t go as well as he thinks. She may be an extraordinary girl, but she’s also a ticking letter bomb waiting to go off.


Previous installments:

*Introduction and "American Idiot"

*"Jesus of Suburbia"

*"Holiday"

*"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

*"Are We the Waiting" and “St. Jimmy”

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.