Green Day: Kids since 1988
Did you catch up with the lead singer of Green Day making a fool of himself last week before checking into rehab? Both moves timed, no doubt, to supply some much-needed publicity for the band's new album, part of - oh god! - a planned trilogy. Sadists will also be able to enjoy - or at the least endure - two documentaries that will follow the process of the making of this trilogy. Albums two and three will trickle out over the next couple of months - meaning, presumably, mini-meltdowns from the bassist and drummer to follow.
So, Billie Joe Armstrong had a tantrum. This short, sharp summary from Cracked.com does the business explaining just how sad and misguided this all was - I definitely recommend watching the video.
Armstrong declared that he'd been around since 1988 when he was upset to be bumped at an awards show; Green Day's time being cut short because Usher had gone long. Usher has in fact been around about the same amount of time as Green Day. Then he angrily shouted that he was not Justin Bieber. Profanity in there too - just to make it extra-special punk-ish.
But, as Cracked said, he was playing a festival (the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas) - a very commercial festival. Appearing on a bill with Usher and Rihanna and other pop and R'n'B acts. That - and the fact that the iHeartRadio Festival is a giant love-in for the opinion-censoring Clear Channel - pretty much does make Green Day something akin to The Punk Justin Bieber.
But, depending on what you read, maybe this wasn't a meltdown - it was, instead, a statement.
That's probably the way someone who has been around since 1988 might see it. Because it was most definitely a meltdown. Just not a very good one.
Green Day was never a good band. And the music never meant anything at all. The first albums had a hooky, bubble-gum version of grunge-styled fuzzy punk. Fizzy punk, even - a sort of punk-lite. I happily included Dookie as one of my 10 important punk albums because it was a gateway of sorts.
But that doesn't mean the album stands up as any sort of classic.
I wouldn't expect my son Oscar to go on to name The Noisy Book as one of his all-time favourite books, a classic. But it just might be the thing that gets him into reading, into books. Right now he loves it - just as, for a moment in time (seeming now far more fleeting than ever) I loved listening to Dookie.
It took me back to Bodies by The Sex Pistols and on to The Damned and so many other things. And it quickly became preferable for me to listen to The Stranglers than Green Day; to listen to Paul Westerberg, The Electric Prunes, The Stooges - all manner of punk and power-pop and, hey, let's drop the labels, music, from a range of artists that never seemed so cartoon-y.
Green Day's Insomniac album was where the wheels fell off completely. The pre-Dookie albums were almost believable - but still felt like little brother trying on big brother's guitar, trying on his clothes, trying to walk in his shoes, alongside his mates, trying to have something to say and offering very little in the scheme of things.
Since then it's been different versions of a video-game world put to song.
That American Idiot was so close to revered was (and still is) something that baffles me. Here was a conscious effort to repeat the feel and phrasing of Dookie after bumbling along into irrelevance. But American Idiot was huge. It is about as compelling to music - punk or whatever you want to call it - as the movie Clueless is to comedy. Momentary success doesn't beget lasting worth.
But if American Idiot almost contained tunes, 21st Century Breakdown simply was the work of a bunch of American idiots; tuneless and jolting - so desperate to be some marquee attraction, "punk" in inverted commas for people who liked "musicals" in inverted commas on the back of graduating up and on from the High School Musical franchise to the somehow far easier-to-justify, but really just as baffling Glee. A show that you can - apparently - get away with liking ironically, whatever that means...
Last weekend I listened to the new album,Uno. Something I possibly would never have done if I hadn't enjoyed watching Billie Joe Armstrong's silly attempt at a meltdown. It's fitting, really, that someone not-quite punk has a not-quite-punk-meltdown, init?
Well, I tried to listen to Uno. I made it as far as the fifth track, Kill The DJ.
Billie Joe Armstrong is 40. On a song that has been compared to The Clash (for taking ideas from dance music to inform punk, no really) Armstrong sings, "someone kill the DJ/shoot the f**king DJ" over and over across a song that feels and sounds like the cast of Glee covering Franz Ferdinand. A song that should, really, have been written by Pink. A decade ago.
Billie Joe Armstrong is 40. That he had this kind of meltdown - a strange, cloying, desperate claim for relevancy over a pop R'n'B artist (Usher) who has in fact been in the public eye for exactly the same amount of time as Green Day - should be no surprise.
When Billie Joe Armstrong started trying on his cartoon Brit accent he must have known that if he didn't stop doing what he was doing to music by the age of 30 then this would happen. It is, after all, a "punk" version of going postal. But now it just goes viral. And we all get to laugh at it.
He might as well have angrily screamed "don't have a cow, man" or "eat my shorts". Yes, Billie Joe Armstrong - and by extension Green Day - is punk music's Bart Simpson. Not punk's version of The Simpsons, just that one character, taken out of context of the show, left to seem stupid, lazily written, one-note and wallowing in a strange pre-teen purgatory.
There is no music in a Green Day song. They are a brand above and beyond being a band.
Where once you might have figured it fair for Armstrong to insist that, rather than being around since 1988, he had, with some alacrity, been introducing people to real punk music since 1994 - a better (truer) thing to scream to a crowd. Maybe not as satisfying for him as any sort of artist but then Green Day isn't any sort of artist. And now it seems they are no longer a gateway. But they are a herding pen.
And how would it feel to be 40 and writing not only for 12-year-olds but like a 12-year-old?
Why, it might just make you just want to say some f-words and smash your guitar up real good. Right?