Thursday, May 14, 2009

Also, that 2-page story in the liner notes of Kerplunk! is still hilarious.

So Green Day has a new album out, and I couldn't care less. Why is this worthy of a blog post?
I was about 3 months away from turning 13 when Dookie came out, which was pretty much the perfect time. I remember running home from the bus stop after school in the fall of 94, I would time it so Longview was playing on my Walkman right as I stepped off so I could run in rhythm with the chorus. I had really never so identified with a band before. My dubbed cassette copy (provided by my friend Sean) was kept safe under my mattress so as to slip under the parental radar (sorry mom, but at least it wasn't drugs or pornography). It's funny to think back on a time when I felt the need to be so secretive, but isn't that a central tenet of going into the teen years?

The Longview video is still one of my favorites ever, and sums up to me the general aesthetic of early to mid-90's punk rock that I still adore to this day.

One day I got home from school early and had the house to myself. Mtv was running a concert from the current tour in support of Dookie and I had the presence of mind to run and grab the vhs tape containing my claymation school project from the year prior. I shoved it into the vcr and hit record. Oddly enough, I can say that watching that concert was a life-changing experience. I can trace back several life choices directly to that video. Is it comforting or terrifying to know that such a simple thing can direct the course of one's life?

You know why I began playing guitar? This segment, particularly beginning and 1:30:

You can blame them for my failing to develop as anything other than a competent rhythm player.

You know what was the greatest thing ever? Starting Welcome To Paradise in the wrong key:

That song remained my favorite song for years and years and I still love it. I feel the same way hearing it now that I did then.

My whole musical world revolved around that band for a few years. I was into other punk rock and began to get into ska through Rancid and The Bosstones, but Green Day always had some primal magnetism for me. My life was nothing like these glue-sniffing, speed-doing youth from central California, but like somehow we met in the middle and they provided the soundtrack to a litany of firsts : first actual kiss, first and only shoplifting (sorry, Cupsaw market... I owe you approximately $2.75), first after-school freedom as I wandered the streets and woods and parking lots with Sean, first sneaking into R rated movies with Kevin, first bits of actually self-expressive art, first heartbreak, and many others.
There was something about them that made me feel like I was ok, that there was nothing wrong with me a good friend and some mischief couldn't fix, and that if I wasn't normal enough for everyone else then they could all go straight to hell. Those theses would be tested and flexed in the years since, but to a degree I see those as some of the original foundational truths of my life... in my best moments I still feel ok about myself, the good friend is now most often Cleo, and while I'm a bit more considerate with other people's opinions of me, I still hold a pretty high level of autonomy and feel just great about that.

Getting back to the band itself, their first three albums were all voraciously devoured by me and my best friend. I can't count how many hours I've sunk into 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk!. I felt an honest to goodness emotional connection to some of the lamest high-school romantic lyrics ever written by punks. Let's face it - their first two albums were mostly the stuff of 9th-grade notebook doodles, all hearts and misanthropy. This was the score to my life of pining after girls I knew had no interest in me, feeling alienated and wanting to lash out at an uncaring and stupid world, and wishing for someone with whom I could share all of it. It was kinda Heathers-ish.

Their fourth album, Insomiac, was the first album I remember laying awake at night in anticipation for. When it finally came out I knew instantly that it wasn't quite the high point that Dookie had been, but I still loved it intensely and still do. That album still smells like baking asphalt to me as it was the official soundtrack of the time in the summer of 1996 when I went to Long Beach Island with Alyssa Eberth and she ditched me, leaving me to wander around and hang out in (what else) parking lots for most of the time.

and, just for good measure:

When Nimrod came out in 1997, the writing was really on the wall for where Green Day was headed. They were getting older and their non-hard-and-fast influences were really starting to show. With other bands I've been able to make that trip with them but oddly enough, this is where the band started to lose me. It's still a great record and I still wore out the cassette, but it just wasn't the same. Several great songs aside, it just felt a bit more polished and mailed in. Perhaps I was growing older? Perhaps they had lost that early scrappy danger I had so loved? Whatever it was, that identification I had felt with them was waning and when Warning came out a few years later it was all but gone. I mean really, Warning is just a crappy album compared to their earlier efforts. I had given them up for dead when American Idiot dropped to thunderous applause. Again, a few standout tunes aside, this was the sound of Green Day further spreading their influences around and I just wasn't going to Green Day for Beatles and 70's prog-rock references. And to be honest, I really wasn't going to them for their political observations.

Fun fact: I almost wrecked my first car on my way to work in 2004 because I called in to answer a radio contest question to win a copy of American Idiot. The answer to the question was: Micheal Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry. I could never actually find the station, though, and my window for picking up my prize expired.

And now we come to the new record, 21st Century Breakdown. Stylistically and form-wise, it's American Idiot Part 2. I've just given it that crucial first listen and I can all but repeat what I've just said about their last few albums. It just ain't the same. Is that me just refusing to accept growth from a band whose members are surely in their 40's? When Justun Wanted invited me to see them with him and Dylan Rooke this summer at Mellon Arena, my first thought was that I never ever wanted to see Green Day in an arena. It just work for me on that grand a scale. The Green Day I identified with and loved were poor, maladjusted screw-ups... something about seeing that in stadium seating just doesn't work for me. Shallow? Perhaps. But to quote them in their better years, "I knew you back then and you knew me, now I think I'm sick and I want to go home".
I ended that like a Rolling Stone article!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What have I been doing? + Best Thing I've Seen All Day 5/10/09

In the past few weeks, I have:

- baked bagels from scratch
- made tortilla chips from tortillas
- baked granola bars from scratch
- made some band merch
- designed some stuff for Cleo
- worked way too many hours
- watched 3 Miyazaki-directed cartoons
- walked many many miles
- lost 12 pounds
- and watched this, the best thing I've seen all day: