The year’s end always seems like an appropriate time to dedicate thought to the comings and goings and passions of life, and when doing so my mind is drawn to considering what has without doubt been one of the most eventful years in history for Green Day and their fans.
Over the course of 2012, my perception of the band has changed dramatically. The geography of the musical world is worlds away from that of previous decades, with 2012 seeing Green Day’s position within the musical hierarchy has shifted in my view dramatically.
I’ve written before about what the band means to me. At the beginning of the year, Green Day were the band I could fall back on. Theirs was the music that formed the core of the soundtrack to the last 8 years of my life. Through love lost and gained, they had the words. Through boredom, isolation or celebration, it was Green Day that understood me better than any person I know, and whom I could confide my most honest and brutal feelings. There is such a thing as being a fan of something – maintaining an interest, investing time and money – then, there is taking something external and making it a part of yourself; adding its properties to your own to complete the essence of your own emotions, which are never wholly complete without such external forces, be they experience, people we love, or, in this case music.
That is my stake in Green Day, and it is their stake in me, if it sounds like melodrama, just think about the things and times that shook you to your core. That’s what I’m getting at.
In many ways, Green Day evoked all the aspects of that relationship in 2012. The highlight of my year is unrivaled: that show they played at Shepherds Bush was like the climax of a love affair in the midst of a party. It was exhilarating, emotional, and the purest distillation of fun one could find. The perfect gig from a band that even amongst those who don’t like them are known for their live performances. It highlighted not just the bond they share with their fans and each other, but the bonds that unite the fans beyond the band. That gig and this forum are perhaps the finest examples of how music transcends itself by bring people together who all have at least one thing in common. It’s how relationships and friends start and endure.
The Trilogy, denounced by some as a shallow marketing coup revealed itself to me and others as something far deeper - being on The Voice, the adverts, movie appearances, the TV shows - that all comes with being of a certain cultural stature, it's not 'selling out', a concept I don't believe in in the first place. Billie and the guys aren't products of the money-hungry machine that the industry is today. They've made their fortune. As of American Idiot, they have their pension. Everything since has, therefore, been far more of a personal struggle than it may seem. First, living up to the creative and commercial prowess of American Idiot. Then, with these three albums, clearing the air and starting afresh with a blank canvas. Such an atmosphere allows for more honesty than the band have ever given before.
Uno, Dos and Tre are just that. Honest. Laying aside the musical flaws one may find, they represent the life they lead, their self-image, and their insecurities.
For those who can’t see that and stick to calling them the stunt of a commercial band, I reserve pity. The band had a certain faith in every song. I would have preferred to see a single 15 song album. What we got was Billie exercising his demons, ultimately more publicly than anyone could have imagined.
I’m not going to review the trilogy. That has been done enough. But the words contained within it, chiefly, “I’m too tired to be bored, I’m too bored to me tired…I’m too mental to go crazy, I’m too drunk to be pure…” spell out a cry for help and emotional honesty more stark than anything Billie has committed to record before. Always the one for singing what he feels, be it disillusions with love, life, loneliness or alcohol; we’ve never heard such clear indications of a man in a seriously perilous place.
Hearing confessions like that in the context of three albums that generally sound fun and espouse falling in love and having a laugh made them all the more stark. And relatable. For anyone who has battled with addiction or quite simply an overdose on life, the trilogy is a parable.
Billie’s meltdown served to remind us that they are real humans, not the voices in our heads or just the music on our disks. They are real life people. The acts of taking something into ourselves is ultimately selfish, and we stop seeing it as something that exists without our influence. What BJA’s entry into rehab, and the clues leading up to it in his music did was to relinquish my hold over the music and depersonalise it again. Suddenly, Green Day’s music wasn’t just a reflection of my own troubles.
It was a portrait of someone else’s.
Seeing the American Idiot musical and realising just how many demons live in Billie’s head to create a story line at once so dark and yet so true brought this home further. The music has forever changed how I see, hear and feel the album and, by extension, the band.
Being quietly disappointed in the trilogy musically yet acknowledging that for the members it was a necessity has also jaded me slightly. Whether through overplay or the depersonalisation process, I feel at once disconnected from the band, but I have a greater cerebral appreciation for their not only creative process and world, but my own feelings and how I react to my own tribulations.
Green Day’s position as a record-selling commercial force is, we need to face, at an end. They are entering the stage in their career that The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Who and AC/DC entered through the late 80’s to the start of the 00’s; bands who have their fixed following and place in culture, but who have had their time setting the trends and now carve a path untroubled by and without troubling the mainstream charts. It is a sign of career maturation and not something, in my eyes, to see with sadness. It is a position awarded to an elite few. Their wide-scale commercial force must now be spent, but their influence looms as large now as ever.
2012 has then been a year of great change and readjustment for the band. Lines have been drawn under things and cobwebs blown away. They are in a completely fresh, new position they’ve never been in and going into 2013 hopefully in the healthiest place they’ve ever been – clean, unburdened, and with a devout following large and accepting enough to lap up whatever the band throws at them.
The only way we’ll know how they handle it will be with their tours next year. So roll on 2013, and thank you, Green Day, for a 2012 that I cannot – for good and ill – forget.