As good as Green Day has always been at cranking out irresistibly anthemic pop punk, you always got the feeling they had something bigger in ’em if they would only grow up a bit and really go for it. 2000’s Warning exhibited a maturity and reach that suggested they were on their way, but it was a mere tease compared to American Idiot, the band’s first truly great album and the first punk-rock opera of the new millennium. As pretentious a concept as that might seem, Green Day pulls it off brilliantly, using the characters Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy and Whatsername to capture the essence of how it feels to be alienated in contemporary America. Billie Joe Armstrong writes and sings with newfound wisdom and depth, and the music evokes both the predictable (Buzzcocks, Who and Kinks) and the unexpected (The Beatles and Beach Boys). But there’s nothing derivative about Green Day now; love ’em or hate ’em, they’ve crafted a unique brand of rock.