After hearing Green Day's latest album 21st Century Breakdown—an ambitious follow-up to their critically acclaimed punk opera American Idiot—I've at-last seen the light!
Years ago I wrote off their material as manic-simplistic, but American Idiot—which is now being made into a Broadway musical—woke me up, and 21st Century Breakdown won me over.
Green Day is one of the few '90s bands that has stood the test of time in two simple ways: they're still together (a true accomplishment these days for a '90s band) and their records keep getting stronger.
In addition to the punk ferocity of much of their music, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has developed a pop song sensibility, hitting on the muses of Lennon-McCartney, Ray Davies, and Pete Townshend, among others.
One of the interesting aspects of this band, from an organizational angle, is that despite the prodigious singer/songwriter/musician talents of Armstrong, the band is demonstrably a team—not a superstar avec back-up musicians—and a democratic one at that. (We're big fans of workforce democracy here at blfr, in case you couldn't tell.)
Armstrong writes the songs but bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool are full participants in the arrangements. The governance model is simple. In Dirnt's words: "We are a democracy with an elected leader" (Armstrong).
And their team friendship and loyalty over two decades has compensated for the centrifugal forces of individual ego that can splinter apart even the best rock & roll organizations.
Meanwhile, their current hit—"Do You Know the Enemy" (live clip below)—has become a testimonial to unbridled passion and exuberance… qualities that business teams of all stripes could clearly use more of. (The "enemy" as the song explains is "the foreman of control," 'the honor to obey," and "silence" in the face of injustice.)
As Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great punk philosopher, used to say: "Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis."