Wednesday, January 16, 2002

I hope that Green Day's recent "International Superhits!" video and CD fulfills the band's contract with Reprise Records because, seriously, this dual release writes the Bay Area pop-punk wunderkinds' epitaph and might very well free them up for a signing with the label of the same name. Luckily, the video hadn't sold out at Newbury Comics in Cambridge, else this denouncement would be easier to write. Oh, I'm no long-time Gilman Street scenester, and I probably have no right to criticize Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre, but I can't help but feel betrayed. Growing up in Wisconsin, I've listened to Green Day since 1989, met Al Sobrante shortly after he left the band -- and just before the big break that broke Green Day -- and have seen Billie Joe walking down the Haight with his kid in what might have been a Reprise-purchased stroller.

Oh, I have fond memories of dancing around Liz's apartment to Insomniac in the mid-'90s, but this video sours my stomach. One, the dual release. It's probably the label's doing, but coming out with a 15-video tape at the same time you put out a best-of CD with several unreleased tracks plays into the hands of the yuppie-cum-collector scum while avoiding a full new release. Two, the videos are exactly the sort of videos Green Day should never have made. Full of eMpTyV-style videography that -- outside of "Longview" and "Geek Stink Breath"'s mostly band practice ambience -- focuses more on image and "narrative" than performance or prank (Green Day could've taken cues from Lookout! and Hopeless records' compilation videos) -- the video is rife with largesse and waste.

Billie Joe knifes a couch. Most of the videos involve a cast and crew that -- while probably less egregious and expensive than most video trappings -- are a far cry from the band's Gilman, Absolutely Zippo, and Telegraph Street origins. There are porn star-styled soundstages. Victorian dresses. Apocalyptic junkyard settings. Hawaiian dancing girls. The "Stray Cat Strut"-inspired flapper cabaret stage for "Hitchin' a Ride." Bettie Page lookalikes. Staged parades with computer-animated balloons.

That said, there are rare Winston Smith animations in "Stuck with Me," Billie Joe's crooked teeth, the brilliant near-tracking shot of "Walking Contradiction" -- the "Destroying America"-presaging pick of the litter -- "Good Riddance"'s allusions to portraits of Bay Area punk longtimers (a touching reference -- what I wouldn't give for a real place/real people index of the video cameos!), a Green Bay Packers parody that must do Rev. Norb proud, and tour footage (even though "Last Ride In" bites).

Maybe Green Day are the showmen punk rock needs to become commercially viable. Then again, maybe punk rock doesn't need to be commercially viable. It's not a question I should need to ask in 2002. Watch the video to Green Day's "Waiting." Then watch Mr. T Experience's "I Fell for You" or "And I Will Be with You." Who would you rather have at your party?

Thank the gods that Adeline Records puts out more records than Green Day does. Just look at Mike Dirnt's side project The Frustrators. At least Billie Joe's putting his money to good use -- just like David Eggers. If I ever come into money, I hope I use it as wisely -- and as wise-acrely -- as Billie Joe does with Adeline and David does with McSweeney's. Because then I'd have the time of my life.


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