Monday, March 13, 2006

Great moments in rock and roll: Green Day??

Today's musical spotlight is on Green Day - Wake Me Up When September Ends.

"Oh my god, I hate Green Day. You are totally scraping the bottom of the barrel."----Okay. But here is a song that you can find everywhere, from KROQ (new rock) to KBIG (upbeat favorites). What makes it such an enormous and ubiquitous hit?

"A media conglomerate in control of production, broadcast, press, retail, and everything in between."----Sure, but hear me out. There are lessons to be learned from this track.

"Wake Me Up" uses a distinctly 1960s production style. This is unusual since today's music mostly borrows from the 80s. Anyway, the first 1:30 consists of just acoustic guitar and strings. The strings are mixed so low to be almost unnoticeable, but keeps the track sounding "produced" instead of indie rock. But uncharacteristic of anything recorded since the 70s, there's a host of weird instruments filling up the very high end. They include: a xylophone, tambourine and other percussion instruments taken straight from Phil Spector's stash. No, I'm not talking about his stash of firearms. I'm talking the box where he keeps his percussion. You know, like triangles and maracas and shit.

Around 1:30, Green Day avoid diving into hard rock mode like with the flip of a switch from the bridge to neck pickup. It's more like switching from the bridge to the both pickups. We hear the bass drums and electric guitar knocking tentatively on the door of hard rockness (like knocking four times on the door of unhappiness, or knock-knock-knocking on heaven's door. or knock knock, who's there, Anita! Anita who? Anita new string for my guitar!!!!!!!), before the whole band breaks through with full heaviness. The same idea is why Radiohead's "Creep" was such a success: the hook was Jonny Greenwood's ker-crunch right before the chorus. It's true, there's no other hook.

At 3:14, we hear the obligatory but often welcome "eye of the storm." That is, when the band suddenly goes quiet for a few lines before getting heavy again. It's a rock and roll cliche, but one of the good ones to keep the dynamics interesting. We do it on "Sunday Night" and "Hamlet." Radiohead did it on "My Iron Lung." Lots of other examples but I can't name them off the top of my head.

So next time you hear it on the radio, don't go for the dial. Try to appreciate what makes this song so popular. Especially when you're stuck in an office which plays KBIG and you're forced to listen to it.

"Whatever. Next you're going to say that Coldplay's 'Fix You' is the greatest song ever."----No, the greatest song ever is and has always been "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles.


Anonymous said...

I totally veto this post. Green Day sucks, though they have songs way better than this one.

Btw, Neon, you are clearly in need of some guitar education, as you conflate the "bridge" and "neck" pickups.

Lastly, knock-knock jokes??
Enough. We have clearly been resting on our collective ass too long. Time to get serious. Go out and publicize, phosphor.


Anonymous said...

isn't the hook totally the "in my life" major/minor switch? and do they really have better songs, or did somebody here implicitly admit to liking "good riddance"?

Anonymous said...

I hate this song too, arta. My common room plays it a lot and not only do I always loudly protest, I also sometimes throw things. If you were there, Neon, I would be throwing said things at you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Fix You is patriarchal bullshit. Don't even touch that one.

Anonymous said...