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Green Day: American Idiot
By Larry Zamel, 17, Fairfax HS

As an old-school Green Day fan I was skeptical when I heard about the band’s latest album, American Idiot. The last album, Warning, wasn’t as awesome as their old ones.

But when I heard the first track, "American Idiot," I thought "Damn! Not a bad start!" As I finished the second track, "Jesus of Suburbia," I was really impressed. The first two tracks are almost 100 percent Green Day sound, fast-paced distortion, guitars with a few new twists, but mainly the old Green Day hooks.

But American Idiot is more than just an old Green Day album. It tells a story, with the characters St. Jimmy, Whatsername and the Jesus of Suburbia appearing on songs throughout the record. Their stories represent lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s views about America. This record will piss some people off, with lyrics about America’s growing failure in the last few years, the corrupt media and the fear after 9/11.

On the song "American Idiot" Billie Joe sarcastically sings "Welcome to a new kind of tension/ All across the alienation" and "Well maybe I’m the faggot, America/ I’m not a part of a redneck agenda." This is also Green Day’s most personal record to date; it has the ballad "Wake Me Up When September Ends," a great track that deals with the death of Billie Joe’s dad, an issue that was never really addressed on other Green Day records.

I hope they win every single Grammy they’re nominated for this year because they deserve them.

Rufus Wainwright: Want One
By Marvin Novelo, 17, Franklin HS

Relying more on classic artists, like the late Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, for inspiration, Rufus Wainwright proves that traditional pop/rock is still alive and well in an age of superficial superstars. Want One is a collection of elegantly written songs that are passionate and somber, but not sleep-inducing. Like Wainwright’s earlier albums, Want One has themes of love, family and drugs. However, it doesn’t sound redundant.

Want One truly shines on the tracks that are supported by an orchestra. The first single, "Oh What a World," starts out with Wainwright humming slowly with the tuba as the only instrument. After Wainwright sings the chorus once, more instruments are introduced, and by the third time it’s a full-blown symphony with pianos, harps, trumpets, violins, flutes and piccolos. It sounds almost like a Broadway musical! The lyrics hide incredible depth and never feel forced or rushed. The song that has the best lyrics is "Go or Go Ahead." "But oh Medusa kiss me and crucify/ This unholy notion of the mythic power of love." The album isn’t always sullen. The somewhat comedic and folk-inspired "14th Street," picks up the pace with its loud trumpets and Wainwright’s more upbeat voice.

However, not all is great in Want One. The abundant metaphors, similes and allusions may be too much for some listeners. However, it’s a great album in many respects that probably won’t get the attention it deserves, since Wainwright’s music doesn’t have the appeal that the latest teen queen does.

The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives
By Andrea Domanick, 17, Harvard-Westlake School

Be warned: the Hives are out to get you. And there’s no avoiding getting sucked into the band’s latest album with its infectious staccato punk riffs and madman belting vocals. Tyrannosaurus Hives is a perfect 12-song arsenal from the Swedish quintet.

Looking dapper in white blazers and bow-ties, the Hives have followed up their 2001 garage rock staple Veni Vidi Vicious by stripping down and refining their signature screamy, lo-fi clamor of Swedish guitar rock into their own twisted masterpiece. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s belting yowl is every scream of joy and rage that you’ve ever wanted to let loose. Though the lyrics are hard to understand amidst Almqvist’s shouting, they range from vaguely anti-establishment, "But ah no this I see/ there’s nothing wrong with me/ There’s no deadbeat regime rider inside of me" in "Abra Cadaver" to the pompous and jeering exclamations of "Diabolic Scheme."

On 11 of the 12 tracks, the guitars of Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem race on like an out-of-control train kept in line only by the precision of drummer Chris Dangerous and bassist Dr. Matt Destruction. They only veer away once: on the disc’s standout quasi-ballad, "Diabolic Scheme." The song starts off as a mess of synthesized strings, Almqvist’s maniacal shrieks and diabolical lyrics like "Well from greatness to greatness is where I span/ You have me for a moment, grab on while you can," then crashes into an equally wicked guitar solo that breathes Pink Floyd. But the finest example of the band’s sound comes on "B is for Brutus," which sounds like a mechanical dinosaur running rampant through a city. There’s no avoiding these diabolic Swedes with names that match their music. Sooner or later they’ll get you. The Hives have already infected me. And I like it.