An important release today, in the sometimes-derided sub-genre that is pop punk. “Dookie” is the major label debut album from the band Green Day. It ultimately was a major commercial success, and remains well regarded to this day. It is rated as album #375 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
A few thoughts on Green Day. First off, the sound of this album, which emerged from the shadows of their more hard-core punk rock roots, could be considered a bit one-dimensional. Is that such a crime? Bands like AC/DC have made an entire career with a relatively one-dimensional sound. Even more, as you do hear some diversity of pace and style eventually on the record, and certainly later in their career, I still like them best when they are playing fast and loud. So much for diversity… at least from Green Day.
With regards to pop punk, which like many labels, is not completely accurate nor fair, I don’t think the basic concept is flawed either. I like good pop music, and I certainly love good punk rock, so what is wrong with bringing a more melodic sound to the thrashing guitars I know I enjoy? In my head, I have always looked at Green Day as being at the front end of this movement in the 1990s and beyond, but my insightful son reminded me that this combination traces back clearly to The Ramones and other bands who attempted the same blend. I was a little disappointed in myself for not connecting those dots on my own, but I’m happy to give credit where credit is due.
As noted, “Dookie” was their first major label release, which fairly well got them blacklisted from the clubs they grew up in, but it is hard to dispute the choice to “sell out”. The album contains five singles, each of which were big hits on modern rock radio, and still are. My favorite will always be “Basket Case”, speaking to the challenges of mental health and sexual identity. While those are valid topics, I mainly love this song because it flat out rocks. The trio of front-man Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt on bass, and Tre Cool on drums really pack a wallop, and this song is a great rush, no matter how many times I have heard it. My other favorite of the five singles is “She”, for pretty much the exact same reason. It just hits hard and fast, and just like “Crackerman” from Stone Temple Pilots, it just never slows down or gives in. “Longview” and “When I Come Around” were also massive hits, but don’t enthrall me quite as much. Even as I typically welcome this change in tempo, I keep coming back to the fastest rockers. As such, the other big hit from this album, “Welcome to Paradise” is much more in line with my preferences here. It is actually a re-recorded version of a song from an earlier album, “Kerplunk”, and I encourage you to check out both versions for comparison. One more I would add to this favorites list is “Sassafras Roots”. Once you listen, you will understand why.
I can’t wrap things up without acknowledging the last track, a “hidden” song called “All by Myself”. At first, I thought it was a big goof by Armstrong, as it sounds like a castoff from the Muppet Show. However, once I learned the entire song, including vocal and guitar, was performed by drummer Tre Cool, it made me smile a lot. You can never take life too seriously…
Armstrong evolved into one of the most influential songwriters and voices for his generation of rock musicians and he has even seen his work transform into a successful Broadway musical. He’s the perfect face for a band who can deliver thrashing punk or thoughtful ballads, all with the same caliber and attitude.