Pop Culture
Oct 04, 2012, 06:51AM

Billie Joe Armstrong's Existential Period

Should he stay or should he go?

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When Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong smashed his guitar to pieces because their song—"Basket Case," off Dookie (1994)—was cut short by a gigantic screen reading “1 MINUTES LEFT,” the audience members happily cheered along in collusion to a sort of diluted default punk mentality which has pervaded most of rock since the Who in the 1960s. Instrument smashing flourishes have been offered by everyone from Mötley Crüe to Nirvana; not to mention The Clash, whose iconic image of smashing graces the cover of London Calling.

It doesn't take a political theorist, or a punk in mascara, to know that when you play a corporate festival in Las Vegas' MGM Grand, one headlined by the more popular Usher and Rihanna—for whom it was implied you were "opening," and why your 45 minute set was cut short to 25 minutes—then maybe the vapid machine-like disrespect towards your band would all tie in pretty neatly with the obscene emotionally glib experience to begin with. Armstrong's reaction simply felt naive, something one would expect from Taylor Swift, in the softer version of tears. The odd apolitical sincerity of his anger was awkward. Punk was theatrical; this guy was just hurt. Here was someone who didn't really need to be heard anymore.

The damage control surrounding Armstrong's explosion promised that he would go to rehab, implying that it was an "unspecified substance abuse problem," and not the alienating and exploitative music industry at large. At their best, Green Day was just suburban bro punk. This sub-photogenic moment will likely not go down in history—just a quick paragraph collated under "personal life" in Armstrong's Wikipedia page. I imagine him perusing it every few months or so, the final euphoria of opiates supplanting his soul, his grim reaper playing a loud power chord, getting angry, in fear, at how much more could be written.


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