The punk rock pension

Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 2 2012

Green Day grows old in three chords
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

old-in-punk-rockPunk: Green Day was once the genre’s semi-questionable idol. After 24 years, eight studio albums, and one Tony award-winning musical, it’s hard to distinguish which anti-establishment act they stand for today.

So it should be of note that on September 22, three days before the release of their ninth album, ¡Uno!, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong ended a set in Las Vegas abruptly when a LCD monitor at the back of the venue signaled them to wrap-up 20 minutes early. Armstrong was outraged, smashing his guitar after a cuss-filled tirade and claimed that he was mistaken for Justin Bieber. Whether he made the statement out of anger, intoxication, or humour, the fact was that the aging rocker was concerned with usurping artists and the fading limelight.

Song titles from ¡Uno! such as “Nuclear Family,” “Carpe Diem,” and “Sweet 16” all hearken the adolescent golden years. The daunting prospect of time weighs heavily on these unruly musicians, and it translates to the music. Such can be heard on “Kill the DJ,” their second single off the album, which adapts a danceable beat intended for the dominant pop-loving demographic.

Over the years, Green Day’s persona has evolved from angsty shenanigans to political objectors; but their music is a reflection of what they are. So what exactly are they now?

Meanwhile, mainstream America is having an obsession with trilogies. From films to books to albums, producing a series in three parts has recently gone from risky business venture into guaranteed success. But Green Day does not see their new collection as another commercial bandwagoner. ¡Uno! released on September 25,¡Dos! is set to release on November 13, and the final installment ¡Tré! will be available on January 15, 2013, apparently taking inspiration not from the contemporary, but from the classic Van Halen trilogy, Van Halen III, and III (1978–1998).

While other aging punk bands (such as Bad Religion and Rancid) try to sustain solely on their organic style, Green Day dares to explore new avenues. After all, they were the band to create the critically acclaimed rock opera American Idiot back in 2004. They are not afraid to veer from convention, but conforming is what they’ll have to do now to endure the ride over the hill.

But many genres allow artists to survive well into their sonority seniority. Look at 71-year-old Bob Dylan, who released his 35th album Tempest just this month.

Should they make the attempt, Green Day would not be the first artist to jump genres to avoid extinction. For example, Kid Rock, despite what you might believe, was smart enough to go from rap to country in order to find an accepting (and yes, existing) audience.

Over the years, Green Day’s persona has evolved from angsty shenanigans to political objectors; but their music is a reflection of what they are. So what exactly are they now? A day after the incident in Vegas, Armstrong checked himself into rehab for substance abuse. In a statement afterward, the band apologized to the promoters and any fans that had been offended. It was punk rock suicide.

The bad press and concert cancellations are devastating blows, but nothing new in the music industry. After all, the ‘live fast, die young’ mentality only works for those committed to dying young. The band is faced with a midlife crisis. If Green Day is aiming to be the Rolling Stones of punk rock, than something’s gotta give. Otherwise, expect an early retirement plan for those prolific punk rockers.

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