Disco Vietnam

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Green Day Conspiracy

"If it is a Miracle, any sort of evidence will answer, but if it is a Fact, proof is necessary"
- Mark Twain

"No one has the right to destroy another person's belief by demanding empirical evidence."
- Ann Landers

Some things don't make sense, but since nothing really matters anyway (and what else have we got to do) the absurd, however absurd, often finds a way of sneaking past our better judgment.

Barry Bonds is now the undisputed greatest baseball player of all time. He has seven MVPs, 500 stolen bases, almost 3,000 hits, 2,500 walks and, of course, 756 career homeruns and counting, more than any other player in the history of baseball. Barry Bonds' name now ranks among and above baseball's mythical icons: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Willie, Aaron, Mackey Sasser, and for some people (read: seemingly every sportswriter in America) this is entirely unacceptable.

They say, "Fool me once, shame on you: Fool me twice, shame on me," but people rarely accept this rather logical logic; as soon as #756 flew over that fence everything went to absolute shit. Babies cried. All the world's ice cream melted and people were pissed off for reasons they still aren't even entirely sure of.

You see, Barry Bonds took steroids, maybe. Well, probably. There is no definitive proof as of yet, though the evidence seems rather overwhelming. But this evidence is based almost entirely on one simple premise: it didn't make sense.

How could a player who'd already achieved pantheon-level success in his prime, but had already shown signs he'd entered the twilight of his career suddenly begin to shatter records and increase his production in ways that dwarfed the seasons that had already established him as a first-ballot unanimous hall-of-famer? It doesn't make sense! 73 homeruns in his 16th year, breaking the record of 70 set by Mark McGwire, which broke the record of 61 set by Roger Maris, a record that stood for almost 40 years!

It didn't make any fucking sense. And because it didn't make any fucking sense people rightfully started to ask questions; then, slowly, people started to find some tiny answers; then, slowly, people started to realize: we got fucked.

And at first they blamed Bonds and McGwire and steroids and mourned the sanctity of the game. Such a fucking cryfest, and it was as pathetic as it was annoying and you just wished Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would fucking blast Bob Costas with a Neuralizer so he can get back to blowing Mickey Mantle's rotting corpse, which, frankly, would have been be a much more productive way to spend his time.

Thankfully, something else happened: all those sporstwriters started to blame themselves. And it was beautiful. Like Doc Brown in Back to the Future they cried in desperation: "How could I have been so careless? 73 homeruns! .863 slugging percentage! At 37-years-old! The only thing that can produce that kind of power is a bolt of lightning!" Jaded and betrayed by the strike of 1994 and the sport's loss of innocence at the hands of greedy and moronic ownership fans and sportswriters alike were so desperate to recapture the lost magic of "The Homerun" they turned a blind eye to the deception right in front of their nose. They let it happen.

Still, no one was really to blame. You have to understand, this kind of thing happens all the time, which, after a rather lengthy introduction, brings us to today's topic: The Green Day Conspiracy.


The Green Day Conspiracy is based on a very simple claim: There is no way in fucking hell Green Day wrote American Idiot. And the reason I believe this to be true is equally simple: because it doesn't make any fucking sense.

The Green Day Conspiracy claims American Idiot and its success is the result of an elaborate plot by the major players at Warner Bros. to ensure continued profits for the company by keeping their most successful artists in their established position of power in the marketplace.

Some history: In 1995 Green Day released Dookie. I am a human being and as a human being, specifically one who was 13 when Dookie was released, I am obligated to own Dookie. So, while I don't play Dookie, I do own Dookie, and while I don't especially give two left testicles about Green Day I will concede Dookie is kinda awesome. Over 10 million people have agreed with this assertion and the album has been certified Diamond by the RIAA.

Dookie is awesome because it openly embraces simplicity. Billie Joe Armstrong's strength as a songwriter has never been the result of some latent technical proficiency. He has a unique gift for simple and memorable melodies, he's a fairly decent rhythm guitar player, but really more than anything else Armstrong understands that if you want to be a famous band it helps to play songs kids want to play and can learn to play rather quickly. It's simple franchising. Start them young. Just like cigarettes. Whenever Kenny Schwartz teaches a drum lesson he brings one of those Nick Lachey clickers with him. He will ask his student at their first lesson what kind of music they like; each time a student replies "Green Day" he clicks the clicker. As of press time the clicker is broken due to overclicking. People fucking love Green Day.

More accurately, however, people fucking love Dookie. Few would argue their subsequent albums Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning, though not without their share of some fairly popular songs, measure up to Dookie. They're just not as good. In fact, Nimrod and Warning in particular are not good at all. Insomniac kinda sucks too, come to think of it. "Minority:" That song was terrible, right? (You thought so too, didn't you? You must have. It is.) So too, the album's second single, its title track, "Warning." But there's more to "Warning" than meets the eye and this is where it gets juicy, juicy.

In January of 2001, coincidentally only three months before Barry Bonds began smacking them dingers, MTV.com published this story: "English Rocker Claims Green Day Plagiarized His Song."

When people started asking Other Garden vocalist Colin Merry, "Have you heard this Green Day song?," they weren't recommending he listen for pleasure - they were suggesting he sue the Berkeley, California, rockers for plagiarism.

Now the obscure Cambridge, England, band is planning to sue Green Day for breach of copyright over the alleged similarity between Merry's song "Never Got the Chance" — which he said he wrote in 1992 and was on the band's 1997 EP (titled EP) - and "Warning," the title cut of Green Day's latest album, which Merry said he believes is a "reworked" version of his song. The band has contacted Green Day's music publisher, Warner Chappell, and requested that all royalties from "Warning" be frozen.

These cases, as we're learning from Avril Lavigne's recent troubles, are usually settled out of court for undisclosed sums, often regardless of the case's validity. It's simply too much of an expense to have a label's lawyers go through the legal process for something so relatively frivolous as a baseless accusation of plagiarism. While it obviously runs the risk of damaging the artist's public perception, ultimately it's more financially sensible to settle these cases out of court. It's kind of a good way to make money if you're an asshole.

This case is a little different. If you've ever heard this song it's almost embarrassing how similar they are. Within the first seven seconds you will say, "Hmm, this sounds like that Green Day song ... in fact, it sounds exactly like that Green Day song!" So, let us posit Green Day did, in fact, rip off this obscure song, as all evidence seems to suggest they must have. Even if this was unintentional or purely coincidental, as it very well may have been, had they chosen to proceed through the legal process, not only did the label run the financial risk of retaining its lawyers for the case, but the possibility also existed they might actually lose. Needless to say this would be a considerable embarrassment to Green Day and consequently a damaging blow to the label's bottom line.

Meanwhile, critics reviews of Warning were middling at best, and while each of Green Day's previous albums had been certified at least double platinum, Warning was only certified gold, which, if you're a band that once sold 10 million copies, sucks. According to Wikipedia, which is always accurate, this obvious decline in sales started to fuel speculation that the band was considering an amicable break-up. Predictably, two years after Warning Reprise Records issued Green Day's greatest hits package International Superhits, followed shortly thereafter by Shenigans, a B-side compilation. Green Day had actually attempted a follow-up to Warning, to be titled Cigarettes and Valentines, but the master tapes were stolen. The band was basically a ghost that didn't know it was dead yet.

So to review: Green Day issued one arguably great album 12 years ago followed by three mediocre, less popular albums of xeroxed four chord punky pop songs; they were sued by an obscure band for plagiarism, issued a greatest hits and B-side compilation amid rumors of their impending break-up, then tried one more go at it only to have their master tapes stolen. And then...



Let me ask you something...

Does that make sense?


So let's imagine a scenario: it's 2002; there's a top secret meeting. Some A&R with a deep voice and a white beard stares Tre Cool right in his silly eyeballs. "Listen," he wheezes. "This shit is bad. Baaad. You're fucked. And since you're fucked, we're fucked. And you're not allowed to fuck us. We fuck you! That's how this works. So here's the deal: the only way we can get out of this is if your next record is fucking phenomenal, but seeing as though you can't be trusted to deliver a phenomenal album on your own, as you've already failed to do so three times with diminishing returns, to ensure this record is fucking phenomenal we're going to have it written for you. Deal with it or you're fucking finished and you can go back to playing dive bars in Oakland or wherever the fuck you assholes are from. Got it?"

With the exception of its lead single title track (designed to lull you into a false sense of security) few would argue American Idiot represents a quantum leap in terms of Green Day's songwriting, arrangement and production. Whereas all previous Green Day songs sound like each other, both stylistically and structurally the songs on American Idiot have almost no precedent within their catalogue; there are no songs to be found anywhere in Green Day's extensive repertoire that sound like any of the songs on American Idiot, and certainly nothing to suggest they are even remotely capable of writing explicitly political epic rock suites with purpose and force and an extended narrative thread. It makes no fucking sense.

Just two years before they were singing, "Warning. Live without warning / Say warning, live without warning / Without. Alright," and "'Cause I wanna be the minority / I don't need your authority / Down with the moral majority / 'Cause I wanna be the minority." That shit is fucking asinine. And that album was considered "experimental." Come on!

As I've already mentioned, American Idiot spawned five hit singles, the title track, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Wake Me Up When September Ends." "Holiday" and "Jesus of Suburbia." The latter, a skyscraping rock opera that recalls everything from Rush to Bryan Adams (though very little Green Day), is essentially just five separate songs rather liazily strung together with the hopes that their relationship to each other would magically reveal itself. But with "Jesus of Subirbia" Reprise managed to pull off the ultimate scam: everytime "Jesus of Suburbia" is played on the radio that radio station is essentially playing five Green Day songs in a row. What do you think is gonna happen when one band controls that much radio real estate?

Soon after the record's release Green Day embarked on a global arena tour, selling out every venue they played. But something is different: suddenly there are two extra dudes in the band. Who the hell are these dudes? It's a bit suspicious is it not?

They release a movie documented the recording of the album. Why? Why film a documentary of an arguably irrelevent band that has recorded a whole bunch of gradually shittier albums recording an album? It's propaganda, man! You show them writing and recording and playing and preemptively thwart any potential doubt of the record's authenticity!

They perform "Working Class Hero" on American Idol! They Cover "When the Saints Go Marching in" with U2. They're in the goddamn Simpsons movie! What the fuck?!?!?

But why go through all this trouble? Because, as stated in NBC's The Office, it costs ten times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. In the case of Green Day and Reprise Records and Warner Bros. we're talking about literally millions of customers. Do you think the cautionary tale of Milli Vanilli has prevented anything like that from ever happening again, or do you think they've since developed an even better way to do something like that without getting caught? I would assume the latter is true and you'd be wise to do the same.

So by now you're probably wondering, "If Green Day didn't write American Idiot, who did?"

Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.

Behold! One of the greatest cover-ups of the last three years!!!


Somewhere in LA there is a guy. He wakes up every morning. He brushes his teeth. He drinks a cup of coffee. He heads to work. His job: the anti-publicist. His job is to make sure no one ever, ever finds out Green Day didn't write American Idiot.

This guy is going to get fucking fired.

His boss is going to storm into his office. "Johnson," he'll exclaim (some guy's name is Johnson), "How did they find out? How! I want answers! Where did this information leak?"

"It didn't" Johnson will reply. "The plan was fool-proof! Fool proof I say! There is no evidence to be found anywhere."

Then how did he find out?"

"Well ... he just kinda thought about it ... and it just didn't make any sense to him."

It's like when you figure out math works.


Now ... do I really believe anything I've just written?

Not really.

Is any of this evidence conclusive?

Not at all.

But, knowing what we know, is it totally possible?


We can assume Barry Bonds is on steroids and his homeruns aren't real; he's a cheat and his sins will destroy baseball. There is no definitive proof but that hardly seems to matter; it's so blatantly obvious, you see.

But if it's so obvious Barry Bonds cheated and he's a disgrace to the game of baseball because his head is big, why is it so completely beyond the realm of possibility to think a decidedly mediocre band of punk-rockers in their mid 30s weren't entirely responsible for their career defining opus after three successive shitty albums of three-minute shitty pop-punk songs and a lawsuit accusing them of plagiarism?

I just want to know if this is true. (Just tell me. You can tell me. I won't tell anyone.) Because if this is true, then a whole bunch of shit totally is, too. Do the math.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm a writer, well, trying to be

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I have an idea for a screenplay