From the Vinyl Vault - 3/28/19
Frankie - Green Day: American Idiot
If I went back in time and told 15-year-old Frankie that I am currently lying on my couch listening to American Idiot on vinyl, she would... she would probably tell me to get a haircut, honestly. She was kind of a jerk. But she also wouldn’t believe me, because she also thought vinyl was archaic and that MP3s and hologram concerts were the future. 25-year-old Frankie is more than thrilled to add my favorite Green Day album to my record collection and finally get to hear the rock opera of my generation in the crisp clarity of 180-gram vinyl.
Vinyl is my favorite medium to listen to music on because I am a purist and I like to listen to albums in their entirety and in chronological order, the way the artist painstakingly intended. To me, American Idiot is like one long song and it’s hard for me to skip around and pick a song here and there to listen to. Listening to just one song has me pinning to listen to everything that comes before and after. Of course my favorite song on the entire album is “Jesus of Suburbia,” a nine-minute rhapsody introducing the anti-hero character the entire rock opera of “American Idiot” is telling of. I think I liked how contrarian the song was when I was in junior high and high school, but it was in college that some of the visuals truly started to click with me; “To fall in love and fall in debt/ To alcohol and cigarettes” still heavily resonates with me now, along with the bridge of “And there's nothing wrong with me/ This is how I'm supposed to be/ In a land of make believe/ That don't believe in me.”
Of course American Idiot is comprised of other well known Green Day hits, including “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and the unfortunately heavily meme’d “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Outside of the heavily rotated singles from this album, another song that resonates with me still is “Extraordinary Girl.” Despite being an all male band, Green Day has always been incredibly sensitive to the plight of women in the punk scene. “Extraordinary Girl” is the introduction of Jesus’ love interest “Whatsername” (also the name of the final song on the album) and conjures the image of a young woman who does not know her worth because of the societal standards she is held to and the men around her taking advantage of her.
I picked up my copy of American Idiot from Used Kids Records in Columbus, Ohio. I think what I most enjoy about owning this album on vinyl is the track listing on the back; “American Idiot” being episodic, streaming services bunch the songs together (“Holiday/ Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Are We the Waiting/ St. Jimmy,” etc.) but the track listing on the vinyl edition lists them as all individual songs, and even breaks down the two rhapsodies, “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming,” into their individual parts. American Idiot was adapted into a Broadway musical that ran through 2011, and in 2016 it was green lighted for a script re-write to become an HBO feature length movie. It currently has an IMDb page without much information as it’s still in development, but I’m hoping for news on the project in the future!
Michael - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound
What can I say? I'm a sucker for alt-country. I've always been drawn to all the familiar alt-country names. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is alt-country at it's finest. He's also a name that I've known for a long time, but have only recently gotten into and I'm so angry at myself for the time I've missed out. However, I can forgive myself a little knowing I'll be seeing him and Father John Misty's co-headlining tour this summer in Houston. I'll be honest, for the uninitiated, Isbell's music leans a little more country than alt. But I wouldn't let that you keep you away, he also has some rock leanings that come out. One thing you will get on many of the songs that have The 400 Unit accompanying Isbell are fantastic homemade harmonies with Amanda Shires, Isbell's wife and a alt-country star in her own right. Still reticent?Think of it as alt with a twang.
The Nashville Sound has some fantastic tracks on it. It opens with "Last of My Kind", a low-key alt-country jam that features some fantastic finger picking guitar work. It features a hook that sends shivers down the spine Isbell's vocals are that good. "Tupelo" is another amazing track that features some of that good ole' fashioned homemade harmonization I was talking about earlier. There's just nothing that beats non-dubbed harmonies, it's like the difference between a tube amp and a solid state one. The warmth of the sound you get with the real deal, there's just no comparison. One thing I love about Isbell is that he's a socially conscious musician who uses his podium to push important issues. He takes the opportunity to do this with the song "White Man's World" where he talks about racial inequality and social justice in the United States of America.
The absolute hit of the album is "If We Were Vampires" which is an entirely unique love song. It's different than anything I've ever heard. It discusses the mortality of love and that on average a couple will get maybe 40 years together and that eventually one of the partners is going to be alone because of death. The song nearly brought me to tears as I considered the subject, at first I thought "That's an easy prospect, I'd want to die first so my wife could live longer", but then I thought about the fact that then she'd be left behind, as stated in the song. It's a tough subject to broach. Isbell turns it on it's head by hypothesizing that if they were vampires and thought death was a joke that he might not even hold his partners hand, because that fear of losing the other would be gone. So would the need for public displays of affection exist? It's a beautiful song and one that makes you think.
If you haven't checked out Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, or his solo stuff, The Nashville Sound isn't a bad place to start. Its full of carefully crafted, high quality alt-country goodness. I was very happy to add it to my collection just recently.