Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Green Day

Dookie (1994)

Burnout/Having A Blast/Chump/Longview/Welcome To Paradise/Pulling Teeth/Basket Case/She/Sassafras Roots/When I Come Around/Coming Clean/Emenius Sleepus/In The End/F.O.D.

This, Green Day's third album, from 1994, was said to have brought punk to the masses, as is it were something new. Bollocks. It is a very retro album, sounding as if it were straight out of 1979's second division punk offerings. This was nothing new. People like me liked this sort of thing seventeen years earlier. That is not to say that I don't like it, though, - I do. It bristles with youthful anger and visceral energy, as a good punk album should do, of course. To be fair to the group, they do merge retro punk sounds with a contemporary grunginess pretty effectively and if the next generation along from mine got their teenage aggression inspired by it, all well and good. Fair play.

The sound is fast and furious and the influences are many - Stiff Little Fingers' Inflammable Material, The Ruts' The Crack, The Buzzcocks' Another Music In A Different Kitchen and The Clash's first album. The album reminds me a lot of Inflammable Material. 

Burnout is very Buzzcocks-sounding and features a standard punk riff and drum sound and Billie Joe Armstrong's is almost English in its sneering, whining delivery. Having A Blast is frantic and riffy in a very late seventies way, like The Ruts or early Stiff Little Fingers. Chump is a bit first Clash album-like. I like the drum and guitar interplay, mid-song. Good stuff.

A fine drum and bass slightly dubby rhythm introduces the slower, more melodic Longview. This is another one I really like. Despite its retro influences, the bit where it breaks out after around a minute is pure nineties grungy rock. A pure Clash riff introduces the punky Welcome To Paradise

Pulling Teeth has an almost sixties psychedelic garage sound to it, while Basket Case was a hit single (that passed me by as I paid scant attention to the charts by 1994). I like it, though, it sounds very 1977-78 to me. Another good one - check out those punk guitar lines.

She blends melody and vigour perfectly and Sassafras Roots is so very Stiff Little Fingers, from the riffs, through the drums to the growling but slightly sad-sounding vocals. The riff also sounds very inspired by The Psychedelic Furs' Pretty In Pink. When I Come Around also has a slower, chunkier SLF vibe. 

The albums grinds to its end with a row of short, fast punkers like the lesser known ones on the first Clash album. The final track, F.O.D., is slow and acoustic, initially, and vaguely Lennon-esque in its cynicism before it breaks out into a huge, heavy explosion of a track.

This was an exciting album whose vigour and vitality simply cannot be ignored. 

American Idiot (2004)

American Idiot/Jesus Of Suburbia/Holiday/Boulevard Of Broken Dreams/Are We The Waiting/St. Jimmy/Give Me Novacaine/She's A Rebel/Extraordinary Girl/Letterbomb/Wake Me Up When September Ends/Homecoming/Whatsername

This album caught my attention due to its wonderful title - manna from Heaven for anyone in possession of a healthy I'm So Bored With The USA-inspired cynicism like myself. This was great - an actual American not chanting "USA!, USA!, USA!" and blathering on about patriotism and so on, but one confronting his own country's weaknesses (as he saw them at the time) head on and giving it to them big time. Here's to you Billie Joe - tell it as it is. Ironically, though, the administration it was railing so passionately against in 2004-05 seems decidedly preferable to the nightmare one of 2016-2020. A bit like the UK punks in 1977-78 who were griping full-on about a Labour government and their reward would soon be twelve years of Margaret Thatcher. Be careful what you wish for.

It was said to be punk's first "punk opera" - a "concept album". A punk concept album? Surely not? They hadn't gone all mid-seventies prog, had they? No need to worry about that. Just listen to the opener.

American Idiot is a punky beauty of a track - snarling with indignant anger and backed by some blistering drums, rumbling and searing, riffy guitar. "I'm not a part of a redneck agenda...". Quite. Neither am I. A simply superb record. It makes me want to be eighteen again. 

Jesus Of Suburbia is just as good, with a Ramones-like feel to it at the beginning. The second part sounds like Bryan Adams' Summer Of '69 in places too. It was (along with Homecoming) one of two nine minute-long tracks made up of several snippets of songs like a punk version of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick, or more likely inspired by Wire's Pink Flag album. The "songlets" all merge into each other, so the whole thing plays as one. It makes it a bit difficult to differentiate between the parts, so the album loses a bit of cohesion in that respect and it also suffers from CD bloat in that it goes on for nearly an hour, but dip into bits of it and it has an energy that is impossible to resist. 

Holiday, released as a single, is a catchy, riffy punker as was its fellow more traditional rock oriented single, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.

Are We The Waiting is apeallingly anthemic, while the breakneck punk of St. Jimmy is Stiff Little Fingers' first album revisited. Give Me Novacaine shows that they could do occasionally melodic in between the power chords too. She's A Rebel is a solid punk workout too and then we get some more almost sixties-style melody on Extraordinary Girl. I think I'll leave it there, though, forty-five minutes is fine. Actually, I'll come back to praise the fast and furious ire of Letterbomb.

Musically, the album is excellent and the whole band's commitment throughout gets hold of you by the scruff of the neck. A really innovative and impressive achievement. 

Check out these influences on Green Day's music :-
Stiff Little Fingers
The Clash

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