For a couple of years, some of my friends and I have been sharing music with one another. We’re supposed to review/rate whatever’s shared with us, but that doesn’t always happen.
Green Day – American Idiot (2004)
We’ve made it nearly two years without anyone sharing any Green Day. Not that they’re mind-blowing, but they are a big name in the pop punk scene, so it is a little surprising we’ve covered other punk artists before these guys.
I don’t love how most of the songs on the digital version of this album are in medleys. Jesus of Suburbia and Homecoming are one thing. Sometimes I want to hear those kinds of medleys all at once and sometimes I just want to hear the constituent parts, but I don’t like how the digital version has nine songs in the middle of the album spread over five tracks. Vinyl and cassettes are like that because of how the physical media work, but there’s no reason why a digital version should be that way.
I think part of the reason I haven’t shared any Green Day (or really listened to them in the past 10+ years) is because they remind me of junior high and high school, and while I’ve grown up (a little), it doesn’t appear that they have. There are other bands that are the same way, still whining about their dad walking out on them 30 years ago (I’m looking at you Everclear and Good Charlotte), or how they’re more than 40 years old and can’t get/keep a girlfriend (Reel Big Fish). I know it’s not really fair to tell a band to change when they’re just being true to who they are and sticking with what made them money in the first place, but there has to be a balance. Nobody would watch a TV show (for very long) that tells the same story week after week, only changing a few details, right?
All of that being said, it’s still enjoyable. It’s not like they play poorly. I wasn’t paying super close attention to the lyrics, but I never felt like I was getting a political lecture (although I’ll bet it’s in there).
I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision or not, but I liked the homage to Social Distortion‘s cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire in the Tales of Another Broken Home segment of the Jesus of Suburbia suite. And Rock and Roll Girlfriend reminded me of The Ramones.
I really liked the verses on Give Me Novacaine. It and Wake Me Up When September Ends were little changes to the dominant style without being disruptions. Extraordinary Girl had a couple cool ideas too, it just got a little repetitive. The last three segments of Homecoming had little things I liked about them, but not necessarily the whole segment or song.
I also listened to four studio bonus tracks, which were all b-sides to the title track. Governator was also a b-side for Holiday. And they were pretty much more of the same (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Not bad (except for Governator, which I didn’t really care for), simple and high energy. I’m just not always in the mood for this, and (really, like most music) would enjoy it more if it were mixed in with other stuff. 3/5
From my friends:
“So Green Day isn’t really my thing, but a few of their hits through the years have some nostalgic value for me. This album was one of the last releases before my mission so hearing Wake Me Up and Boulevard of Broken really takes me back to that time. Yet they didn’t seem as good now as they did then. Familiarity I guess. I do like how each track on this is actually a double track. I have to say, I prefer when they divide the songs up so you can skip to where you like. With the right player it can still seemlessly play (but it’s the worst when spotify goes to ads in a break like that, so perhaps there’s a valid reason for their decision). I just like musically when it seems they were thinking about how the songs work together, not necessarily that they just put two songs in one track. Does that make sense? It seems to flow well between songs and it was enjoyable. I know this is a really political album, but at work I don’t have much spare brain power to lend to lyrics, so it didn’t bug me at all.” 3.8/5 – Spencer
Cary Ann Hearst & Michael Trent – Shovels and Rope (2008)
In 2008, solo artists Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent teamed up to make this record. In 2009 they got married. They continued to do solo stuff, but being musicians married to one another, they’d help one another out. By 2012 that turned into them always playing together, so they made it official. They re-released this album (and altered the artwork slightly) and used the name of the album as their new band name.
So it can get a little confusing, especially when you’re looking for this album online. Sometimes you find it under one of their names or the other (usually Cary Ann’s, since her name is listed first), or it’s under Shovels and Rope, but I’ve never seen it listed as both a “solo” album and from the band (if that makes sense at all) on the same service.
I first heard about them in 2013 when they appeared on an album of modern artists doing songs from/about the Civil War. I listened to some of their other stuff back then, but then forgot about them until someone recommended their song Boxcar to me earlier this year (which I hadn’t heard before because it appears on this album and I didn’t find due to previously explained confusion), and I got back into them.
It’s Americana, so it switches between folk and rock and country. I feel like it’s more saloon piano and gospel flavors of country than the twang. But they’ve got some really good vocal harmonies, which is a big reason why I like them.
There are a couple of songs (Magdeline and Build around You Heart a Wall, I think) which have f-bombs, which I never see coming. So be aware of that.
Here’s what my friends had to say:
“I was worried because I have that trigger anytime something twangy comes to my ears, but this was really enjoyable. I agree that its more folksy gospel like than country western which is perfect. Still, its not really anything I’m likely to go back and listen to again.” 3.4/5 – Spencer
“This was a good album for me, but only good. It sounded very generic at times, like they were more imitating than creating. I know you’ll want a specific example Paul, but I don’t have one, just a feeling.
I felt like it was more of a bluegrass/country/folk album. Didn’t really notice any of the rock you mentioned.
One thing that really stood out to me though (earning the 3 stars) was their ability to lead from one track to another. It was very well arranged, better than most contemporary albums.” 3/5 – Tim
Share your own thoughts on that album or Green Day’s or really whatever else you want down in the comments below.