I’m pretty damn far behind here, but a couple of albums from this year I got recently are just outstanding.
Green Day’s American Idiot has got to be one of the absolute most dead-on recordings in terms of capturing the cultural and political climate in the United States this year (Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts Now also does quite well).
For one thing, the album is remarkably ambitious in its scope. The “rock opera” and “concept album” tags are so misused in general and I hate to throw trite cliches at an album I’ve really been enjoying. Let’s just say it’s a centrally themed statement on modern life a la (dare I say it?) Darkness on the Edge of Town or OK Computer.
They don’t have the bombast or the urgency of the Clash, don’t level the sharp attacks of Rage Against the Machine, nor can the neo punkers muster the righteous anger of Bad Religion, but Green Day is nobody’s little brother. American Idiot is intelligent, poignant and musically remarkable considering the band has never rated too highly outside the high school set. For godsakes, they burst onto the scene with an album called Dookie and paved a rather regretable road that brought Blink 182, among much, much worse.
When it’s all said and done, I’d say American Idiot will be remembered as one of the top several albums of this year at worst, and an undeniable classic at best.
The Killers’ Hot Fuss is simply fun. It’s catchy, festive, loud and arrogant. It’s a drunken swagger, just like the Las Vegas it comes from. (Hell, for all I know they’re really from the Henderson suburbs, but equating them with the Strip just seems to make more sense.)
It’s 80s rock all over again, there’s no doubt to that, but what a brilliant swirl they make of it. Like Ryan Adams Rock N Roll (an underrated ball of fun in its own right), the album is practically a track-by-track game of name-the-influence, which in the wrong hands is piss-poor. But they’re songsmiths who know how to both dress like their heroes and be themselves at the same time.
The lyrics can get ridiculous, and it’s hard to tell at times whether they’re tongue-in-cheek or just kinda stupid, but the focus is really just the catchy tunes.
The Killers may be a flash in the pan act. With such a winning debut I actually care, but I really hope not.