You'd think that after mainstream rock critics had finished fellating Conor Oberst, the glum-faced troubadour in Bright Eyes, they'd forget all about the aging punks in Green Day. After all, didn't their 15 minutes end five years ago? And besides, what could a three-chord rock band offer in 2005 that hasn't been done to death? But a funny thing happened on the way to the MTV Video Music Awards. It was Green Day, the band that keeps pluggin' away, that got eight nominations -- more than any other single act received, rock or hip-hop alike. And to think Billie Joe Armstrong and Co. were ready to call it quits after 2000's Warning.
When Green Day released American Idiot last year, the stakes were as high as the expectations; a commercial flop would have ended the band's career. After releasing four albums since signing to Reprise in the early '90s, the pressure was on the band to do something more than hash out an album of three-minute pop tunes. And as all three members had reached their 30s, they were really too old to be shouting about mom and the anguish of adolescence.
But just as the band realized it needed a bigger, more slam-worthy target, along comes the 2004 presidential election and a chance to campaign against one of the most slammable leaders in American history (that's Bush 43, for those of you keeping score). Now politics would forever factor into Green Day's punk equation -- and so would the mini-rock opera. The new album has two of 'em -- "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming" -- both ambitious efforts that give a nod to the Who while avoiding the exaggerated theatrics of Queen. Like Pete Townshend before him, Armstrong proves that you can keep rockin' past the nine-minute mark.
So has Green Day finally convinced the last rock critic of its worth? Well, that depends on your definition of critic. Though most rock journos are impressed, as are the fans, there's one guy who made no bones about dissin' the Day: Steve Diggle, guitarist and vocalist of punk pioneers the Buzzcocks -- one of Green Day's biggest influences. According to a World Entertainment News Network wire story in June, Diggle feigned ignorance upon meeting the band, saying that he "didn't have a clue who they were" and that "they're not punks." Zing!
Oh yeah, we should probably say something about Green Day's opening act, Jimmy Eat World. OK, here goes: radio-friendly pop rock that's catchy, cute, and safer than a lifeguard in a kiddie pool. Not bad, but not rocking either. Maybe their next tour should be with Bright Eyes. You can bet the guitars won't be the only things gently weeping.