Throwback Album of the Week: American Idiot

by Adam Kahn of the Foxfires

 

   Photo by Francesca Pelella

Photo by Francesca Pelella

When I think of albums that had an influence on me as a musician or even when I think of albums that had an influence on me as a person, I tend to have many that have expanded my palette or breathed new inspiration into whatever I am doing from that point forward- but I don’t think I would have a palette at all if it hadn’t been for Green Day's American Idiot. Before American Idiot, I listened to music, but I never really savored or felt a spiritual, emotional, psychological connection to any of it. I dabbled in a bunch of different artists which essentially were just background noise for a 9 year old with ADHD who just wanted to watch Rugrats all the time and had no real passion behind anything I was doing. My mom had shown me The Beatles, Good Charlotte and a couple classic rock bands who I kinda enjoyed and “Good Riddance” by Green Day (but I never knew it was Green Day).  I was essentially just a petri dish of mold; there was no reason why I was existing at that moment, it just happened to be a matter of circumstance. When the World Trade Centers came down September 11th 2001, I was 6 years old and for a 1st grader, this was perhaps one of the most sobering experiences of my life. It was my coming out of Plato’s allegorical cave, sort of speak. I had never before witnessed one of my teachers openly weep in my presence, nor had I ever had a moment where I had ever seen my father cry. It was hard to piece together how and why this had occurred for me as a 6 year old and the sounds and sights that I saw that day and every day afterwards were never as they were before nor will they ever be again for me. Everyone in NYC including the surrounding areas knew someone who had either directly or indirectly been affected by the attacks and it was a moment where I saw my country come together for a brief moment in time; but that was it- a brief moment. Soon there was talks of war, terrorists, and the talking heads came on television, radio, AOL news (Remember AOL News?), and essentially everywhere that I went I was surrounded by it to a point where I tuned it out for the most part after a while. I was bewildered as to what could keep people fighting wars with lives being lost constantly for absolutely nothing. Iraq didn’t have Weapons of Mass Destruction, so why were our troops still there and losing their lives? Why did we need to put ourselves into a situation we didn’t belong in? This all shouldn’t have mattered to me as a nine year old who was having his own baggage occurring at the same time. I never had a very welcoming home life, even from a young age and I was never a very popular kid in my school. I was just a brainy, emotional, and politically conscious nine year old with a messed up home life and no real purpose in the world yet.

It was melancholy. It was disenchanted. It was filled with sorrowful rage and torment. It was as lonely as it was welcoming. Its lyrics were resonating with me at a time where I felt very hollow.

When I first heard “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” I was sitting in my mother’s car and it was unlike anything I had ever heard. It was melancholy. It was disenchanted. It was filled with sorrowful rage and torment. It was as lonely as it was welcoming. Its lyrics were resonating with me at a time where I felt very hollow. It was the ballad that my lonely separatist life was leading me up to for many years. In those days, I didn’t have money, so I would rent CDs from the library and copy them on a blank CD-R so I could listen to them on my Walkman and that’s exactly what I did. I copied American Idiot and as soon as it was done being copied, I popped it into my boombox and listened to the entire album hardly moving a muscle as every fiber of my being was in such rapturous euphoria captured each and every priceless moment of it all as I finally found myself able to relate to something other than my obligation to relate to myself which I found difficult. "American Idiot" started the album off with such disenfranchisement towards what I thought at the time was the worst presidential administration that ever happened. It hooked me. If there was bomb planted to the door that was holding back my frustrations towards the Bush administration and conservative politics, Green Day didn’t just light the fuse- they doused it in gasoline and lit it with an Olympic torch.
Then the next track came on and “Jesus of Suburbia” started the lyrics,

 

I’m the son of rage and love, the Jesus of Suburbia from the bible of none of the above on a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin. Nobody ever died for my sins in hell, as far as I can tell, at least the ones I got away with. And there’s nothing wrong with me. This is how I’m supposed to be in a land of make believe that don’t believe in me.
— Jesus of Suburbia, American Idiot, Green Day

 

It gave voice to how I felt about my own life at that moment in time in ways that I couldn’t already myself. But the song continued for over nine minutes with more lyrics that still echo throughout time for me such as, “Are we demented or am I disturbed, the space that’s in between insane and insecure. Oh, therapy can you please fill the void? Am I retarded or am I just overjoyed? Nobody’s perfect and I stand accused, for lack of a better word and that’s my best excuse.” I was only two tracks in and I felt like there is nothing that ever felt more real and relatable for me than this album. The album is an astounding thirteen songs long and by the end of it I had found true love. I had found something that was very real and relatable to me in a world where there wasn’t anything else was. I got Bullet in a Bible, their Live Concert on DVD and CD for my birthday and I watched them rip the roof off of Wembley Stadium. Billie Joe, Mike and Tre all had this perfectly poised stage presence to all of them that I hadn’t seen before. One of my favorite moments was when Billie Joe introduced the band and when introducing himself, said, “And my name is George W. Bush!” and the crowd booed as Billie Joe smiled and finally said, “Actually my name is asshole.” I smirked a wicked grin and laughed hysterically. As I was watching the band tear up the stage, I came to a realization- I want to do that. I want the world to hear my words and music and give voice to someone like me who may not have much other but themselves and their own alienated thoughts and let them know that someone is going to understand you even if it’s only through a stereo system. I want to stoke a fire in the bellies of the oppressed, alienated, lonely, misunderstood, depressed, tormented, disenfranchised young men and women who feel like they’re helpless in the system they live in whether it be work, home, school, love life, friendships, or anything else that can make a person feel like they are going nowhere fast.

I had already played trumpet, so I figured it’s high time I pick up a guitar. I learned guitar and bass well as the years went by and I wrote poems and lyrics constantly. Through Green Day, I discovered Fuse when they did a twenty-four hour takeover of the station which during the early to late 2000’s were the mecca of music that would lead to that expansion of the palette that I needed. (That takeover day was also the day that Steven's Untitled Rock Show was announced to keep its name instead of changing it to something else by Green Day.) Through Fuse, I discovered bands both new and old which led me to other bands and other tastes. One such band was Nirvana which led to an instant friendship between my best friend and me, my brother of seven years and the lead guitarist of my band, Christian Cordero after I walked into band camp with a Kurt Cobain t shirt and long blonde hair and he was wearing a Nirvana t shirt. It was an instant friendship and he’s probably the best friend and musician I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Any band I have ever been in has been with him, including my current and most successful project, The Foxfires. I wouldn’t be in this band had it not been for him. I would not have been friends with him, had we not had similar tastes in music, that music taste stemmed from Green Day’s American Idiot. I owe some of the best moments of my life to that album.

It reminded me once more of why I make the music I make and how during all of the mayhem that has come to light in 2016 and all that may come in the following four or eight we must keep that fire in our bellies and hope in our hearts.

 

It is no surprise that American Idiot is now again a very relevant album for the world as there is now what I would deem a worse administration than that which we were faced with in 2004 coming to power in January. As many know, Green Day played at the American Music Awards and took a moment on stage to do what the nine year old me needed to see and hear to stoke that fire within me again- during their performance of “Bang Bang,” their new single, they brought it  to a chant and that chant went, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” It reminded me once more of why I make the music I make and how during all of the mayhem that has come to light in 2016 and all that may come in the following four or eight we must keep that fire in our bellies and hope in our hearts. Albeit different genres, it is the message of Green Day and it is the message of my band, The Foxfires.

My band, The Foxfires has been around since 2013. We call our genre, Seagaze- a mix between shoegaze, folk, indie rock, indie pop, and surf rock. Our music from day one has been about peace, love, acceptance, unity, community, empathy with our first campaign, being stickers that said, “Choose Love” on them. This past September we put out an album titled Reawakening which is an album we put out with a message. The album is about how the world needs to reawaken the ideas that we are all human and we must all learn to live in harmony with one another. We must live in a society that promotes equality amongst all people, protects the environment, and brings us together for what we all share in common which is much more than we sometimes tend to believe. We all are composed of the same elements, on the same planet, with the same physical, physiological, psychological, and emotional needs, with the same beginnings and the same ends. We must learn to empathize with each other for our struggles and come together to help one another as each and every one of our lives affects everyone and everything else. Regardless of what god you believe in, what color your skin is, who you love, what your gender is, or what way your politics lean, understand that we are all human and we all are deserving of empathy and the same rights and liberties regardless of any of those circumstances. This album is about waking up a spirit of revolution amongst the masses and coming together before it’s too late. It’s definitely worth a full listen. Much energy went into the writing and recording of the album and it’s by far the best effort we’ve released to date.
 

michelle turk