Nimrod, Green Day's fifth studio album was released in 1997 but I didn't come to it until 2001. I had already listened to 2000's offering Warning, much to the derision of certain school friends who described it as being too 'mainstream', an argument that confounds me to this day. Heaven forbid that a musical artist or group would want to popularity, success or revenues by altering their music to appeal to a wider demographic. Shame on them. Anyhow, I remember purchasing this album in a Frankfurt HMV-equivalent whilst on a German exchange trip.
To explain the concept of an exchange trip, something which feels necessary as my eleven year old daughter had no clue when I mentioned it to her, it is what young people did before Facebook when they wanted to meet someone they could call a friend yet with whom they had no desire to spend any time. Through random allocation, your school would locate someone of a similar age and gender in a school in another country and force you into a temporary co-existence in their country of origin followed by a return visit the next year in your house.
I went on the exchange with my best friend at the time and, as most fifteen year old boys would have done, we latched on to pretty much the first girls we saw on the coach and directed all of our amorous intentions towards them. In a pseudo-Stockholm syndrome environment, we displayed romantic technique that would make The Inbetweeners look like Enrique Iglesias and failed miserably.
Educationally, we did not fare much better. The first words spoken to me by my German exchange friend were 'my English is better than your German so we will speak English'. I ate primarily from franchised food outlets, went ten pin bowling and ice skating in the evenings and wasted a lot of time playing darts. Not too dissimilar to the experience I could have had in any medium to large British township. I did learn that German teenagers seem to love the Blues Brothers, that German computer games at the time were doctored to remove references to the Nazis and that the real effect of the Dambusters raid was less the heroic victory of Barnes Wallis and his inappropriately named dog and more a small headache that took a matter of weeks to rectify. Not a complete informational washout then but hardly the cultural tour de force I'm sure my parents imagined when they forked out hundreds of pounds for me to go.
As far as the album goes, it is the bubbling cauldron of rebellion that you would expect. Singer Billie Joe Armstrong fires off lyrics like 'I'm so fucking happy I could cry', 'I drink a six pack of apathy' and 'I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you' with the same ease as someone reading off a script at a call centre. Their sound is iconic and unmistakeable and they manage to resist the pitfalls of writing simplistic songs about girls and sex, unlike their decade counterparts Blink-182 and Sum 41. Like so many artists before them, this is music designed specifically for your parents not to like, to drive a wedge of animosity between generations and it does so expertly by envisioning the future of limited opportunities, social downturn and economic instability with which so many 'millenials' are current bedfellows.
It is, however, with penultimate track Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) that this album's legacy resides. The lyrics 'It's something unpredictable but in the end is right//I hope you had the time of your life' provided the backing to almost every friendship slideshow or school leavers celebration of the 1990s. Saccharine and sentimental, it has not aged well but it will always stay with me for it was that song that defined that period of my life. As my friend and I travelled to the ferry terminal in Rotterdam on our way home listening to our Discmans, I think we were both daydreaming of picking up a guitar at a school talent show and dazzling the crowd with our rendition of Good Riddance. Then, of course, the convenient objects of our exchange trip affections would stand up from the crowd and say 'I was there when he first heard that song' before storming the stage and throwing themselves at our feet. Then the rest would be history – a modern day Gregory's Girl with football replaced by Californian punk rock.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you that things didn't quite work out like that. Rarely does real life meet the expectations of our teenage fantasies and I think that sentiment is mirrored in this album. Green Day's idealistic rebelliousness is not far off my notions of acoustic conquest. Like a toddler sitting on a beehive, they lash out at anyone and anything in their field of vision. With the benefit of hindsight, it has been interesting to see the maturation of Green Day. Their more recent albums feel more sniper than scatter gun as they pick their targets off and this approach has helped to establish them as a band with a political agenda that is taken seriously. Unfortunately, they have taken these steps largely without me. Perhaps it is because the teen angst that I once had has now largely gone as I have entered my thirties. Perhaps it is because I am no longer looking for ways to show off to teenage girls. Perhaps it is because a few months ago my Mum asked if she could borrow my copy of American Idiot. Perhaps we'll never know.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric of the week
"Wasted youth and a fistful of ideals
I had a young and optomistic point of view"
and over-used cheese soundtracks
my German journey
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