"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Now, in the video for the seemingly straightforward power ballad "Wake Me Up When September Comes [sic]," Green Day makes an answer to every Army-of-One bullshit ad. The video begins with a sappy teen love story, complete with the music low and the dialogue audible, until we see the weeping teenage girl going up to the teenage boy, begging to know if what she heard is true. The boy explodes that she doesn't understand, and then we see what they're talking about, with the boy going off in a bus, having his head shaved, being trained by the military, and sent to an urban battlefield that is presumably Iraq.
There, guitars peaking in the background, we watch as the boy's patrol comes under fire from an unseen enemy, with explosions and bullets all around them. As he watches his fellow soldiers being hit, we see the boy, scared, confused, hidden in one of the bombed out buildings. The thing is that it's filmed as if it is one of those Army or Marine ads, except it looks fucking scary. And then it ends with the teenage girl back at home, sitting on bleachers. We don't know if the boy lives or dies (perhaps there's a sequel in the offing?), but we know that the innocence of the early part has been compromised, and that there's no way that girl and that boy can ever connect again.
Simple. A bit sappy. And as effective as a mallet to the head. Or that bleeding heart grenade on the cover of the album itself.
While some of my hipper-than-thou friends (and who isn't hipper-than-me?) don't understand why I am so enthralled by American Idiot, the fact is that I think it might be, start to finish, the best record I've heard since Hüsker Dü's New Day Rising. The title track is nearly perfect, but "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is the song I keep going back to. In part, this may have something to do with my personal connection with the season (I'll turn 45 the day before Labor Day) and my deep affection for nearly all songs about the month of September (e.g., Big Star's "September Gurls;" Lou Reed's cover of "September Song"). Structurally, this song represents the dramatic highlight of the album, and it provides a necessary counterbalance to the athletic workouts "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming," the twin homages to the Who's "A Quick One (While He's Away)" that carry the bulk of the album's narrative weight. ("Boulevard of Broken Dreams" plays a similar role, but is nowhere near as good.)
I'm no big fan of the video format (it killed the radio star, after all). I hardly ever see new videos any more, but this is one I'll seek out. Thanks to Rude Boy for bringing it to my attention.