On the Defensive- Part 2

In keeping with my need to distance myself, somewhat, from matters in the world that have any real import or impact, I’ve decided to spend a little time getting back into the writing habit by engaging in the defense of a couple o’ few relatively unimportant things/people/circumstances that have come under attack lately. I’m hoping this exercise will help deal with the sensory overload I’m experiencing- and the knee-jerk reversion back to ancient myths- and the doctrines they support- as an ever-growing and ever-more politically and socially acceptable means of dealing with our collective problems that is in evidence EVERYWHERE.

Part 1 was about U2’s misunderstood generosity- and briefly outlined the psychological concept of defense mechanisms. Pop on back there and have a read, if you’re so inclined. It’s a bit wordy (even for me), but I was introducing a new paradigm hereabouts- the ‘non-reactionary defense’ or ‘mature defense mechanism’- so it required a bit more background. Hopefully this one will be more succinct. No promises though. Once I get on a roll… Or a Rock and Roll…

Green Day. In 2015 they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


For some reason, this is making people very angry. At first glance, the growliest detractors seemed to be Smiths fans- who were upset that their particular whiny heroes hadn’t been the band to make the cut. (Full disclosure: I LOATHE Morrissey. Always have done. I get that Johnny Marr is pretty damn brilliant, and that the Smiths had some songs that had a fairly substantial impact back in the day- all those retro-80s compilation albums can’t be wrong, can they?-  but Moz makes me want to remove my ears. Just in case you were wondering.)

I saw a number of general complaints about Green Day’s inclusion back when they were first announced to be on the ballot, and the murmurs became full roars once they actually made it onto the inductees list.

While there may be a person or two on the list of 2015 inductees that is a wee bit confusing to me (not sure what Ringo- on his own, not as part of the Beatles- is doing there), overall, I’m not sure I can find much fault. Lou Reed? Not a question. Especially in light of the fact that we lost him a little over a year ago. His contribution should be highlighted- and, perhaps, acknowledged by a new generation.

Assuming, of course, that the newer generation(s) place any sort of value on induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m not sure that they do. At all. It kinda seems like the people getting their knickers well-twisted are of a more *ahem* seasoned demographic. MY demographic, to be accurate.

I don’t get the fuss. I don’t get the amount of energy and ink (metaphorically speaking) used to declaim the assertion that Green Day has no business being in the Hall o’ Fame.

That I disagree, should be obvious. Why else would I be writing a defense, after all? I’ll get to that in a second, but please, just let me reiterate the fact that people of intelligence and influence are expending brain cells and time complaining about something like this. While real stuff is happening. Bad stuff. Stuff that should be talked about. And read about. And understood. So we can do something about it. (Want a list? Check out any of a number of my other posts- or posts that I’ve linked to- there a whole lot of smart people here in WPWorld talking about a whole lot of important things)

(And I don’t mean stuff like recapping the Walking Dead on the facebook. Just so’s we’re clear.)

Anyhoo. Back to defending Green Day. I like Green Day. A lot, in fact. In the wasteland that was the early 90’s- what with the rise of grunge and a bunch of inexplicable (to me) HipHop MCs- they were pretty much my go-to for music that didn’t make me want to tear off my ears (Moz wasn’t the only one who made me feel that way). Some good came out of Seattle, certainly (Dave Grolh has proven to be a pretty remarkable guy- and an innovative musician. Plus, I like drummers. But enough about him- he’s already in the Hall of Fame), but I was most definitely not a fan of the whole grungy dealio.

Dookie came along just in time, IMHO, to save us all from the faux-angst generated by Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It is also, in and of itself, a great freakin album. InsomniacNimrod and Warning (a folkier Green Day than had been heard heretofore) followed, and were all pretty solid offerings.

Breaths of fresh musical air in my least-favourite music-producing decade.

And then came 2004, and American Idiot.

After the master tracks for their album Cigarettes and Valentines were stolen, the boys in the band opted to start all over, rather than attempt to recreate the lost songs. What resulted was a well-crafted concept album that offered up a pretty stinging social commentary on the State of the American Union.

I was teaching my first course (‘Myth and Symbol’) at Carleton University’s College of the Humanities when the album was released. Surrounded as I was by really smart and engaged young people, I still associate the album with that time- and that group of people. A lot of my students got the album- they felt it spoke to them of the disarray in the post-9/11 world. The reactionary (and ridiculous and unfounded) politics of the American government (and of certain of its allies) and the mass-hysteria propagated by the ever-growing new media forms? All these things were acknowledged- if not adequately addressed. You can cut them some slack, though. They’re musicians, not policy-makers or community leaders, after all.

Billie Joe, Mike and Tré used this album to register their discontent- discordantly- based in the electric, albeit simple, chords inextricably bound up with their Punk roots.

Ideologically, I agree(d), wholeheartedly, with their political critique (who didn’t hate on Dubya, in those days?), and I love(d) the way they played with religious imagery/(sub)urban culture in the characters of Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy.

There’s actually only one song on the album I don’t much like- Wake Me Up When September Ends. I’m not entirely sure how it ended up being one of the singles or how it’s meant to fit into the larger conceit of the album.

The rest of it? Pretty damn sublime, IMHO. It it pompous and it is glorious. And it’s a whole lot of fun, as well.

They followed it up with 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album that continued the themes of American Idiot quite well, while not quite living up to its example. It isn’t as cohesive, somehow, and the plot lines become a little muddled and convoluted.

But it’s still pretty great Rock and Roll.

American Idiot was turned into a stage musical combining songs from both albums. I’m still not 100% sure what that was all about. I’m guessing that it was an attempt to emulate The Who’s Tommy– and to attract a different audience- but… The book, written by Billie Joe and Michael Mayer, is weak and sort of meandering. I’m not sure I liked it. It certainly wasn’t Punk Rock. But as Broadway musicals go, I enjoyed it more than most.

The bottom line in all this? This band continues to consistently create interesting and innovative music- at times when the rest of the ‘industry’ seems intent on over-produced and/or derivative drivel. While there is great- often-independent- music happening all around us, the stuff that gets played in the mainstream these days (and I have to include things like late night talk show appearances, gigs on SNL and the like in this category) is TERRIBLE. There are exceptions that prove the rule (that Bruno Mars kid, for example, continues to impress me- not really my style of tunes, but you can’t deny the talent there. And he’s cute-as-a-button, to boot), but, generally, I have to actively search for new things that are worth a listen.

Green Day, somehow, manages to remain true to their Punk Rock roots (their cover of the Ramones’ Outsider, from the We’re a Happy Family tribute album IS worth a listen. THAT one you should google) while pushing the limits of the genre and incorporating different styles and themes into their work. And they seem to have a great time with it all. Still. After almost 30 years together. Through all the angst and righteous anger, they can take the piss and offer up a laugh or two along the way.

It’s a solid, clever, often-insightful, sometimes-complex, fun catalogue of music.

I’m not on the selection committee, but those things alone seem like pretty legit criteria for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy

Violence is an energy
Against the enemy
Well, violence is an energy

Bringing on the fury
The choir infantry
Revolt against the honor to obey

Overthrow the effigy
The vast majority
Well, burning down the foreman of control

Silence is the enemy
Against your urgency
So rally up the demons of your soul…

The insurgency will rise
When the blood’s been sacrificed
Don’t be blinded by the lies in your eyes

I’m not entirely sure that I can recognize an enemy, these days. Particularly when ideological attacks seem to be all over the place and, too often, to come out of nowhere.

I do, however, know that three guys out of Berkeley most certainly aren’t the enemy. Not these three guys, anyway. They get that silence- about things that matter- isn’t acceptable. I can appreciate that. They have Voices that say (or shout, depending on your perspective) things that matter- and that manage to get heard above some of the detritus that passes for music in some popular conceptions of such things.

Congratulations on the induction-to-come, Boys. Well-deserved.

Gives me some hope that 2015 might well be pretty cool. Perhaps even três cool.

Happy New Year, everyone! Celebrate well and safely.  Thanks for hanging about and chatting with me in 2014. Hope to see even more of you in the years to come!

8 comments on “On the Defensive- Part 2

  1. Jami says:

    Wow…I’d never listened to the lyrics of that song. I was just having a chat with my colleagues about war the other day, contemplating how the fires of extremism are actually fanned in young people…this black and white enemy vs. good guys scenario is breaking down…we need to have yet a closer look into our own souls if we’re ever going to move beyond the repetitive patterns of violence and justifying violence.

    On a brighter note, I wish you a very happy New Year, Colemining. 🙂

  2. Agreed. I don’t buy into music snobbery. Green Day make fabulous music. End of story.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Ste J says:

    I haven’t heard any Green Day for years, I loved Insomniac and Nimrod but was a little underwhelmed with Dookie, I think it was because everybody told me how good it was and that hype always ruins the experience. I think they should be in for longevity and the ability to tailor their lyrics and retain their fan base. People will complain about anything these days!

    • colemining says:

      Steve- this is exactly the point. I can’t believe the things that cause people to complain- loudly- lately. The number of detractors I saw write about Green Day (and the whole free U2 download… that is all starting up again, since Bono is now saying that he mightn’t be able to play the guitar again after his recent injury. I wasn’t aware that he was much of a guitarist, TBH, but that’s hardly the point…) in complete and utter OUTRAGE at their nomination- let alone the induction… Jebus.

      I caught Dookie right at the beginning- so I’m sentimentally fond of that one. But you’re right- their longevity and innovation and ability to maintain listeners- and add new audiences- certainly warrants their inclusion.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope your 2015 is off to a good start.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s