The Time of Your Life or Good Riddance?
Now that Iâ€™ll have to focus most of my blogging on entries for one of the Universityâ€™s websites, this is probably my last chance to mix it upâ€¦ How â€˜bout an album review?
Tre is the final album in a sort of trilogy released this year by punk rock band Green Day, still working at a steady pace after fifteen years. This one, described by one of its members as a â€œmixed bagâ€ of songs, does attempt to inject some variety, but most of the songs have this in common; they canâ€™t help but come off as somewhat generic. Many of them feel like typical examples of their kind and will probably remind you of other songs you know; in fact, the song Sex, Drugs, and Violence (which admittedly contains an entertaining refrain) might remind you of Green Dayâ€™s own song Missing You, which made its appearance about thirteen minutes prior.
It doesnâ€™t help matters that Green Day is a little too concerned with being emotionless and indifferent, which they seem to believe is the formula for â€œcool.â€ This is most evident in my least favorite song on the album, the opening number Brutal Love, which is a song that whoever wrote Oh My Darling, Clementine might have created instead if he was a punk rocker half asleep from depression medications. It uses a repetitive and soft guitar melody that makes it sound less like â€œbrutal loveâ€ than â€œsort of disappointed love,â€ which becomes a bit hilarious as the lyrics angrily try to live up to the title, even while sung so passively. Iâ€™m at a loss to say how it maintains the indifference as it builds all the way to â€œrocking outâ€ on the electric guitar, but it finds a way. They made their name on this approach with one of their most popular songs Good Riddance, but that worked because it was about a weary subject, which the song effectively portrayed with a catchy beat. Here, itâ€™s forced.
Thatâ€™s the bad news. The good news is, one, that Green Day quickly injects some energy into the songs following their letdown opener, with the cynical detachment fading away to nothing by the halfway point to be replaced with some welcome sincerity. (It reappears later in their song Amanda and again minus the detachment in their song Dirty Rotten Bastards, which are both, thankfully, better outlets for it.) Whatâ€™s more, the familiarity isnâ€™t always a bad thing; Missing You is a throwback to exactly the kind of song Iâ€™ve been missing, the sort of upbeat happy punk song that gave the genre a good name. Todayâ€™s biggest hits donâ€™t come like that anymore.
I wonder how deliberately they ordered these songs. The band seems to become more invested with each one. Early entries like 8th Avenue Serenade joyfully explore guitar solos in ways that add variety, but, as with that particular example, donâ€™t always form a perfect whole, wandering off the set path until they get lost in forgettable jumbles. Sometimes they slow the music down again, now adding some real emotion and sometimes even a sense of joy, but they still have problems in creating variety at these points, now forgoing the jumbled solos for dull repetition. Still, they always offer something to take away; X-Kid is both the most dragged-out song and the most sincere, with the band drawing from a real place to sing about pain in getting older.
Green Day overcomes this and all other problems upon reaching possibly my favorite songs on the album, Walk Away and 99 Revolutions. Each represents a different solution. Walk Away, despite only having those two words for a refrain, assembles its tone perfectly, with a small, reflective opening that builds to its memorable chorus, and from there keeps building and building finally into a triumphant rallying cry. 99 Revolutions does not have that kind of variety, but finds a way to succeed just as well; as possibly the most upbeat, catchy and energetic song on the album, hearing more of the same in every verse is a toe-tapping, head-bobbing pleasure rather than a disappointment. With the right publicity, these songs might just be memorable enough to warrant the repeated airings on the radio that only a handful of songs receive each month and become a welcome addition the tracks that young partygoers always have ready. I canâ€™t exactly call myself hopeful though.
The albumâ€™s closing track will likely end up as its most recognized, having been incorporated into the latest movie in the Twilight series. Iâ€™d be inclined to say that this is fitting, considering its slower pace, its lessened sense of excitement, and its attempts at sentimental sincerity. But I canâ€™t. Itâ€™s just too convincing with the latter to be a match.
Green Day hasnâ€™t quite found the inspiration to put themselves back into the center of the spotlight, but I look forward to seeing more of their efforts after they recharge their creative batteries from this long project. The drive is clearly still there.