Vinyl records. I love everything about them. Whether it be the weight of the record in my hand or the sweet sound of static that sounds when it starts, there’s not an aspect of listening to an album on vinyl that I don’t enjoy. Used record bins are like boxes of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get.
And that’s where this blog comes in handy. Each week, I’ll peruse and take a listen to whatever I can get my hands on. New or old, enjoyable or sheer terrible, I’ll listen to the record and reflect on it here. And so, without further hesitation, it’s time to drop the needle on this week’s review.
For my first record, it seemed only fitting that I christen my record player by breaking in my favorite album, Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
When Green Day released its iconoclastic rock opera more than a decade ago, it marked not only a resurgence in its legendary career, but a complete turnaround for the band. Whereas just a decade prior to the album’s release the band was just a group of snot-nosed teenage brats from Oakland, “American Idiot” showed a more politically conscious, mature group of men. The album’s strong lyrics and iconic, catchy guitar riffs resonated with me for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on and it became one the most played CD’s in my house, much to parent’s chagrin. After listening to the CD on repeat for years, I was sure I knew the album cover to cover.
Top cuts: 5/5
For me, “Jesus of Suburbia” is the most important track on the entire record. It established the character of St. Jimmy and his feelings of loneliness, not belonging and anger with those around him that serve as the central themes for the rest of the album. Hearing the song on vinyl, where every note of the band’s harmonies, Tre Cool’s drumming and Billie Joe Armstrong’s snarling of the words are balanced perfectly and is absolutely incredible.
Also great on the vinyl pressing is what could be considered “Jesus of Suburbia’s” parallel track, the penultimate “Homecoming.” The song has always been my favorite on the album and deals with Jimmy’s acceptance that things he wants to be may never pan out as he wishes that they would. Once again, the band’s harmonizing is on full display as are some of the grungiest and dirtiest sounding guitar riffs on the entire record. What makes this track so fantastic though is Dirnt’s vocals during the third of the song’s five parts. Listening to Dirnt whine the album’s iconic “Nobody likes you” portion of the song is unsettling to begin with, but when the static and popping of the vinyl is added, it becomes haunting to the listener. Saying that songs were "meant to be heard on vinyl" is a bit trite I believe, but in this instance, I firmly believe it to be true.
Most underwhelming: 3/5
While "Holiday" stands as one of the record's most well-received and politically charged tracks, I couldn't help but feel a bit underwhelmed upon listening to it after 10 years. Dirnt's bass sounds fantastic, but it seems as if some of Armstrong's vocals were drowned out by everything else going on during the song. It still sounds great, I was just expecting a bit more balance and the track's lack thereof lands it in the underwhelming category.
Most underrated: 4/5
Two tracks after "Holiday" comes the most underrated and unfortunately overlooked track on the record: "Are We the Waiting." The song's chorus, which features the band singing in unison, is surprisingly fantastic on vinyl and the song's echo-like effect is even better. Housed between the angsty teenage anthem "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and perhaps the record's most traditional punk track "St. Jimmy," "Are We the Waiting" definitely deserves another look given the format.
What I love most about vinyl is that the music sounds incredibly pure and allows the listener to hear every little sound on the track. Because of this, I noticed things I hadn’t noticed on the album in more than a decade of listening to it. The band harmonizes fantastically and the vinyl pressing really showcases that. It also allows some of Mike Dirnt’s fine bass lines to shine (“Letterbomb” is a fantastic example of this). The most impressive aspect is the added epic touch provided in the album’s pair of nine-minute suites “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming.”
Listening to a record as a whole is most definitely an experience, and the one I had while listening to “American Idiot” start to finish was incredible. For fans of the band, a vinyl pressing of the record is a must own and for those into music, a copy of the 2004 classic definitely serves as a worthy addition to your record collection.
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