American Idiot--widely described as a "punk-rock opera"--comes full circle, back to Green Day's 1994 mainstream breakthrough Dookie. That album detailed the raging, Generation X boredom of teen punks; Idiot is ostensibly a chronicle of one of those burnouts 10 years later--still frustrated and angry, but this time having a quarter-life crisis and feeling oppressed by a suffocating political climate.
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But where Dookie's themes felt galvanizing enough to shake the Mohawks out of their ennui, Idiot's indignation feels as buttoned-up as a Gap dress shirt. This is largely because of the ambitious sprawl of the music, which too often strays from rabble-rousing snarls to uninteresting flirtations with overblown power balladry and generic pop-punk. Which is a shame, since there are also some truly fantastic moments: The title track is a whir of throttling chords and punching-bag beats, while the nuanced, acoustic-electric friction sizzling on "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" lends emotional richness. Still, as with many attempts at concept albums, Green Day's ambition outreaches its execution.