If you had to pick one band to don the "least likely to create a rock opera" mantle, Cali-punk trio Green Day would be among the most logical candidates. That makes the existence of American Idiot something of a surprise -- and the excellence of its contents little short of a revelation. There are no half measures on the sprawling disc. Billie Joe Armstrong has created a full slate of characters and given considerable thought to their back-stories -- heck, he even dug out a glockenspiel to add dramatic tension to the nine-minute epic "Jesus of Suburbia." Thing is, Armstrong and company haven't lost their snotty Gilman Street edge in the process -- as evidenced by the snarling, expletive-laced title track and the made-for-pogoing sing-along "Extraordinary Girl." While there's obviously a political subtext running through the disc, Armstrong seldom gets so specific that the disc will sound dated come the next election cycle. Instead, songs like the Clash-styled "Are We the Waiting" and the spare ballad "Wake Me Up when September Ends" delve into adult-oriented emotional distress with the same sort of incisiveness the band once applied to teen angst. While there are occasional lapses into utter excess -- "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" encroaches on show-tune territory -- American Idiot packs enough power, both sonically and emotionally, to make it worthy of extended play (and consideration for a 2004 time capsule).
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