Admit it: prior to the fall of 2004 the very thought of Green Day putting out a 9-minute song seemed quite ridiculous. After all, before American Idiot, these guys were mostly known for songs about smoking weed and masturbating. While “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” showed a hint of maturity, most people miss the scathing intent behind the sweet melody. I read an article about Green Day’s new direction a weeks before American Idiot’s release and told a friend. His response? “Shut the fuck up, Matt. Never talk to me about this ever again.” Naturally, both of us ended up loving the song, though one of us warmed up to it quicker than the other.
Amazingly, American Idiot was not only a great rock and roll record, it summed up the turbulent mid-2000’s better than almost any record I can think of. “Jesus of Suburbia” is the album’s centerpiece: without the nine minute, 5 part suite, the rest of the record would come unhinged and fall under the weight of its own ambitions. But with the simple declaration of “I’m the son of rage and love,” at the beginning of the song, Green Day pulls you into a twisted, messed up world where everything seems to be falling apart. Heartbreak, debt, deception and a “hurricane of fucking lies” all feelings that were very in 2004 (and in 2016, horribly enough) are all contained here. If you don’t get through “Jesus of Suburbia”, there’s no point in listening to the rest of the record.
None of this would matter though, if the music wasn’t great. Each section of “Jesus of Suburbia” is a fantastic piece of music in its own right and they flow together seamlessly. The musical breakdown between the first two sections with a tour de force performance from Tre Cool still sends shivers down my spine. And the guitar solo near the end of the song? It’s a pretty much a note for note melodic rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.
“Jesus of Suburbia” and American Idiot is the type of rare rock and roll record that comes along every once in a while: the kind we didn’t know we needed at the time, but couldn’t live without.