Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Last American Band With Any Credibility

You may think this man has a point, but he does not:
And it's sad to see Armstrong claim credibility on the back of longevity and the fact that he's "not fucking Justin Bieber"—in other words, a rock star, not a pop star. Of course, for a band like Green Day—pop-punks, right?—there's not much difference. This is a corporate rock band, and I don't mean that pejoratively but rather as a point of fact: They've allied with and profited from the commercial forces that lead, among other things, to independent and alternative radio stations being killed and local DJs being replaced with automated playlists. That's fine. It's allowed a lot of their very-good music to find a very-big audience. But in Vegas, he made a spectacle of acting like he's been playing a different game than that. 
Of course, Armstrong knows all this. He's a self-aware master of staging: American Idiot, after all, is now a Broadway production. He may have even scripted this whole meltdown before singing a word. Quietly submitting to a quick set sandwiched between dance-pop superstars might not have played well with the Green Day diehards tuning in. Those diehards almost certainly made up a minority of the audience paying attention to the festival, but for them, a couple "Fuck this shit"s and a smashed guitar may help keep some myth of punk nobility alive. For most anyone else, it's just kind of embarrassing to watch.
Spencer Kornhaber's analysis of the radio industry is laughable. Greed killed radio, not Green Day. The radio industry is failing because someone (Randy Michaels, actually) got the idea to turn it into an overhead-free turnkey industry where radio station licenses were used to create places where satellite-oriented local radio stations could replace radio stations that had fifty or sixty people creating local programming and become nothing more than a closet with broadcast equipment producing exactly no original local programming in exchange for ad revenue. The radio industry is failing because there is no talent, no locality, no originality, no regional flavor and no attention paid to artists and the creation of a viable pool of talent. It is dying because people think Green Day is something to sell rather than a great band with three great albums coming out soon.

His embarrassment comes entirely from the fact that he's not used to seeing an American rock and roll band act like a rock and roll band. This is not an existentialist temper tantrum and this is anything but a sad display of emotion--this is the way a rock and roll band is supposed to act when they've had twenty minutes subtracted from their set.

If Billie Joe Armstrong had ended the song early, waved, and given an aw shucks grin, you could rightly call him a sellout and a candy ass. He didn't do that. He acted up in public precisely because he and his band had just been screwed. You didn't see the drummer or the bass player object. You didn't see Armstrong roll over and accept being treated like he had just been given another Grammy and another million dollars. You saw three men who can actually play their instruments live in front of people react the way that countless others who had gone before them would have reacted.

Do you think The Police would have smiled and waved after being ordered off twenty minutes early? Do you think Pearl Jam would have taken that? What would the Foo Fighters or the Red Hot Chili Peppers have done with that message to get off the stage in one minute? Insert your own band here--especially one with integrity and skill.

This is the sad result of so many sad emo bands. Rock and roll acts are supposed to shuffle up there, play their songs, and wander off, sheepishly confused about being adored. Armstrong doesn't want your adoration. He wants to blow the goddamned roof off the joint.

We need more of this passion, not less.

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