Dustin introduces a new series, starting with his take on the band it’s cool to hate: Green Day.
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s this: I like a lot of things that can easily be made fun of. So I figured, what better way to utilize this fact about me than by turning it into a weekly series and seeing if anyone else out there shares my thoughts on these things?
Earlier this week, I saw that the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine had a cover story about Green Day singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, his first and only interview about the experiences that led to him entering Rehab after an on-stage meltdown in September of last year. This got me thinking and after reading the article last night, I found myself having more respect for the singer and the honesty with which he explained his addictions and how he slowly came to realize what his addictions were doing to his band and those he loved.
I’ve listened to Green Day probably since I was in middle school and sometime between then and now, Green Day has gone from popular to laughable and seem to have regressed from the worldwide domination they enjoyed after 2004 when their album “American Idiot” re-routed the band’s career in ways I’m sure they didn’t imagine.
My problem with bashing Green Day comes from what the majority of people like to say, which is; “Oh, they sold out” or “Oh, their old stuff is so much better. The new stuff just sounds forced.”
Before “Dookie” came out in 1994, Green Day were a popular act up in the San Francisco/Bay Area with a protective, loyal following and an urge to grow more as a band.
After “Dookie,” Green Day were everywhere. Those loyal fans branded them sellouts and banished them from the spots that they made their name just months before and their “punk cred” was completely shot. What’s so funny to me is I heard this same exact thing after the release of “American Idiot” and listened to numerous jokes about how Green Day had become a “tween” band and that they were a joke band that shouldn’t have tried to make any sort of statement politically because that wasn’t their place. They belonged to 3-chord pop-punk and were chastised mercilessly for trying to progress.
My argument has stayed the same for almost as long as I’ve liked them; they’ve never been a punk band. Yes they grew up playing in that scene and yes their early songs and stage show had the sort of drugs and partying that one tends to think of when they think punk rock. But their appeal has never been solely geared towards punkers, they’ve always had a broader sound that appeals to more than one type of listener.
This is a song by one of their biggest cited influences, punk legends Operation Ivy.
“Welcome to Paradise” is arguably one of Green Day’s most recognizable hits in their entire career, it was a huge hit single off of “Dookie” and further cemented the band’s popularity. But wait, that song appeared on “Kerplunk;” the album they recorded well before major labels and headlining arena tours and their “selling out.” Compared to the song by Operation Ivy, “Welcome to Paradise” is full of catchy hooks and hits considerably softer than “Unity” simply put; you can hear a difference in a band that’s found their groove and is comfortable and a band that’s still looking to grow and prove themselves.
No one will ever argue that Green Day will go down as the greatest technical band ever, but what they do they do well. Tre Cool, whether you like his antics or not, can play the shit out of the drums, Mike Dirnt has created some of the most recognizable bass-lines ever written and Billie Joe Armstrong has pulled more songs out with 3-4 chords than should be humanly possible.
When they sold out again in 2004, it was because they stopped singing songs about getting high and nothing being on TV and started voicing their opinions on politics and the state of the country under President Bush.
Honestly, from this stand point there’s no winning. Some fans will praise the jump to a new sound as a band realizes they’re nearing 40 and can’t get away with singing like a bratty teenager anymore, and some fans will lose it, wish the band had kept their sound almost completely intact, and then bitch about the inevitably creepy result; a 40-year-old writing like a teen.
Admittedly, Green Day hasn’t been batting .1000 since “American Idiot” but they still manage to write more listenable songs than otherwise. “21st Century Breakdown,” the follow-up to “Idiot” features a few of the best songs and a few of the worst songs of their career. It’s largely an album focused on Armstrong realizing the success of “American Idiot,” accepting that you’re now a middle-aged rocker and trying to expand on the large-scale sound of “Idiot.” The results are a mixed bag with top singles “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns” sounding like the type of radio-fodder that Daughtry and other soft-rockers have been cranking out for years, but songs like “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” and “American Eulogy” manage to show the new bite in the band’s bark without being too heavy-handed.
“Uno!” “Dos!” and “Tre!,” the band’s trilogy of albums released late last year marked a return to form of sorts of the band to their looser, less agenda-filled music while retaining the ambition that they’ve held throughout their careers. The band take risks on the albums that don’t work at all (Kill the DJ is terrible) but it’s exciting to see the band taking risks like a 3 album trilogy as they near 25 years of touring together.
That’s probably the strongest reason Green Day should be looked at fondly; the development of their stage show into one of the biggest spectacles you can see today. Their shows have become “Springsteen-esque” in that they’re a marathon of hit after hit that you may have forgotten were Green Day songs. That they’re willing to try and forge forward trying new things while also playing 3 hour shows full of “the old stuff” shows that they truly understand their place in music today; the elder statesmen that other, younger bands write off even as they emulate them.
Lukewarm sales of their newest albums as well as a cancelled tour at the hand’s of Armstrong’s stint in rehab have the band hungry to return to the level they were at and a newly announced arena tour starting this month is just what the need to get back into the news for all the right reasons.
Dustin Brewer is co-creator of HefferBrew. That’s his opinion on Green Day and he’s sticking to it. Feel free to share yours on Twitter @HefferBrew and @dstnbrwr, on Facebook or right here in the comments section.