BY STEWART JEAN
The Punk music scene in Berkeley, California during the late 80’s early 90’s was thriving and produced some of todays most mainstream and successful punk (with a side of pop, rock and metal) Rock bands. Perhaps the most successful being Green Day, whose albums Dookie, Nimrod, and American Idiot jolted punk to a new level of acceptance worldwide. In this lesson we will break down the nine-minute epic that is “Jesus of Suburbia,” a tune that encapsulates many musical styles just as punk rock does.
This tune essentially goes through six sections, and the band uses clever techniques to transition between each. While each section has sub-sections and a lot of interesting ideas within them, this lesson breaks it down as more of a big-picture analysis.
Section 1 is a surf/punk feel at 142 bpm with big hits and drum fills. The band uses a one-bar figure to use as a pivot point to transition to Section 2, which is slightly faster than half-time of Section 1 (75 bpm as opposed to 71 bpm). This works out perfectly as it uses the technique of half-time to create the new section, with the tempo bumped up a smidge to create the best pocket for the rock ballad feel of Section 2 (Ex. 1).
Section 2 contains more anthemic hits and big drumming from Tré Cool. The band then uses dotted eighth-notes (three sixteenth-notes) and an accelerando over two bars to transition to Section 3, which is in 3/8. Basically the eighth-note in Section 2 becomes the downbeat for the 3/8 section (Ex. 2).
Next, the band uses a bar of 2/4, turning the eighth-note that was serving as the downbeat in the 3/8 section into the new quarter-note in Section 4, which is a rock shuffle at 176 bpm. Again, the band is not perfectly metronomic in the transition but rather opts to find the sweet spot for the tempo in Section 4. Section 4 rocks out hard and ends with a two-bar hold. The band then simply stays at 176 bpm but changes feels to a rock/country two-beat shuffle, which is Section 5 (Ex. 3).
Finally, the band uses an abrupt (no tricky metric modulation here) change of gears to the end of the song in Section 6 (Ex. 4), which is a nice groovy rock thing. This new feel is set up by a two-bar bass riff.
This song is a great example of how to get from one idea to another, especially if you are in a band where you have two tunes that may not be completed but could work under the same roof of one tune. Many bands have done this such as The Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”), The Beatles (“A Day in the Life”), The Who (“A Quick One”), Rush (“Freewill”), and Tool (“Ticks and Leeches”). I believe drummers are the best band members to help a band sort out these tricky areas within their compositional endeavors.
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.