I kind of miss the days when Green Day were singing about masturbation instead of doing it, but for that mandatory protest record in every band's discography, "American Idiot" is, you don't need me telling you, pretty remarkable. But the 7-minute video for the album's fourth single, "Wake Me Up When September Ends" (which recently made ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's "Must List")? Gimme a fucking break.
As "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is a song not about 9/11, but about the death of singer Billy Joe Armstrong's father, director Samuel "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Bayer deserves a certain amount of credit for daring to dismiss artist intentionality. But seizing on the topical associations of the title strikes me as no less knee-jerk or jejune than asking Alanis "Who oughta know?". The piece, super-pretentiously shot in 'scope, opens exactly like In the Bedroom, with It Boy Jamie Bell and It Girl Evan Rachel Wood (a star, sure, but one with insufferable taste in material) nuzzling in the middle of an open field. They buy French fries (freedom fries?) and consume them in slow-motion, make out in a dingy rec room, play video games, and make out some more. She force-feeds him birthday cake in slow-motion and he spits some back in slow-motion, at which point she bitchslaps him for joining the military. Histrionics ensue. Cut to Green Day performing a few bars in an incongruously glam mise-en-scène.
Then the video becomes a remake of Stripes: shepherded off a bus and into a barbershop, Bell, like Bill Murray before him, inexplicably circumvents the brush-cut rule. Cue the faux-Saving Private Ryan montages, whose sophomorically-staged explosions send shockwaves through Green Day's studio, causing sparks to fly from the lighting grid above. (Dude, it's like, war totally has global repercussions.) Bell, in over his head, cowers behind a wall as Wood sits on some bleachers back home, her future evidently as uncertain as her boyfriend's. So ends the most embarrassing video with sound effects since "Hello."
Risible technique aside, Bayer's heart's in the right place, but something tells me he's preaching to the converted: despite its largely rural and thus implicitly "red state" setting, the video doesn't really seek communion outside its innate demographic, the contemporary American slacker (as opposed to Everybody's All-American), assuring him that if a tarty girlfriend and an XBox aren't sufficient, he's already lost the battle, anyway. It's an ugly, reductive piece that follows the narcissistic trend of casting international conflict as the pretext for a romantic crisis; perhaps, so we can still respect the nominally iconoclastic Green Day (when September ends), we should just chalk it up to satire.