You know how it goes: You and your friend Steve are talking about music, and Steve starts voicing his ignorant opinion on most of your favorite bands, specifically a certain pop-punk group.
“Green Day is so gay, dude.”
While there is no way to prove that this statement is factually unsound, what Steve really means is that Green Day is uncool. He’s heard “Good Riddance” on the local acoustic station and—like every other American kid—listened to American Idiot when it came out, but he doesn’t know Green Day.
The problem with the Oakland trio is that these days, they do their best to push away kids who are into “real rock”. Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown transformed their image from wayward punk has-beens to slimmed-down wrist-cutters. But, there’s one thing that’s never changed about Green Day: the music is fantastic.
Sure, Breakdown was a bit of a slip-up, but American Idiot was possibly the most popular rock album of the 2000s, a title it more than deserved. Plus, just about everything they did in the 90s was pretty good, especially the punk classic Dookie. So, I’d say it’s hard to disagree with the merits of their music. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but if you don’t respect it, you’re just lying to yourself.
However, by my calculations, image is almost one half of the battle with music. If an artist looks “retarded”, as Steve would say, it’s really hard to be a fan of them, even if the music is golden. For all intents and purposes, Green Day is the perfect example. Despite what hardcore fans say, it’s really not that cool to like Green Day. It’s just not. After the late 90s, they just got weird as people; there’s no way around it.
So, what do you do with a guy like Steve who, despite his mother’s best efforts, is semi-homophobic and secretly scared of his own sexuality? There’s only one thing to do to truly introduce him to an artist: Make a playlist. This week begins a new Air Core Yell tradition called “The Ultimate Playlist”. Each week, I’ll help sway Steve’s musical tastes by providing him with a new mix of one artist. The first dibs go to Green Day and their deep arsenal of power chords.
1. “Burnout” – Dookie
What better way to start off the mix than the opening track from the band’s first major label effort? All of the group’s core values are present, beginning with, “I declare I don’t care no more!”
2. “Going to Pasalacqua” – 1,039 / Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
The biggest hit off the band’s first album fits nicely into the second slot. It’s a great way to get the listener a nice background for the superhits that are to follow.
3. “Holiday” – American Idiot
Of all the band’s mid-2000s radio hits, this might’ve been the most omnipresent, as well as the most venomous. An all-out assault on the Bush administration caught the attention of the nation and nudged many a young music fan toward the music store to pick up their first guitar.
4. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – American Idiot
This song goes at #4 simply because the end of “Holiday” flows seamlessly into its intro. This was the first song I ever downloaded from iTunes, and the most popular track from their 2004 album.
5. “Brain Stew” – Insomniac
For a long time, this was my favorite Green Day song, but I’ve gotten a little tired of listening to it. A great tune that’s often lost in the shuffle when talking about the band’s best efforts.
6. “Macy’s Day Parade” – Warning:
Another personal favorite, but I’m not really sure where it stands in the eyes of other fans. This is a great stopgap in the playlist to slow it down for a few minutes. The song has great lyrics and an addicting rhythm.
7. “Hitchin’ a Ride” – Nimrod
This song finds itself up near the top of the playlist due to the fact that I had to spread around the four Nimrod songs I selected. While only one of them can be considered great (more on that later), the swift riffage in this one will do for now.
8. “Basket Case” – Dookie
Does this one need any explanation? It’s tough to avoid it if you listen to rock. Perhaps Green Day’s biggest “rock n roll” hit from the 1990s.
9. “When I Come Around” – Dookie
This one is my favorite from Dookie, and it first appeared on 1992’s Kerplunk. A good one-two combo with “Basket Case”.
10. “East Jesus Nowhere” – 21st Century Breakdown
This one came from Green Day’s most recent studio album. In my mind, it’s the best and most complete song from the LP and holds its own with most of the band’s discography, something a good chunk of 21st Century Breakdown can’t say.
11. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” – American Idiot
This song is really beautiful. That’s a weird word to use for a punk-type band’s song, but the words and guitar ebb and flow with the rhythm section quite nicely. The loud/soft combo is done masterfully here.
12. “Minority” – Warning:
This was the most popular song from the band’s 2000 album, a disc that never got the credit it deserved, probably due to the lack of true punk songs.
13. “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” – Kerplunk!
Another early hit, this song is often reprised live by the band, an honor that is rarely bestowed on anything pre-1994. It just goes to show that Green Day’s sound didn’t change much after the label switch.
14. “Welcome To Paradise” – Dookie
This song is yet another reason why Dookie was the bomb. A nice mix of power chords and bass makes this train go. Oh, and that weird bridge towards the end? It’s awesome.
15. “Nice Guys Finish Last” – Nimrod
A neat little rocker that doesn’t do a whole lot, but still deserves a spot on the playlist. Nimrod is full of these types of solid yet not overly impressive tracks.
16. “Poprocks & Coke” – International Superhits!
I originally considered putting all three of the original songs from Green Day’s first greatest hits album on here, but “Maria” and “J.A.R.” just didn’t make the cut. “Poprocks & Coke” is a rare love song from the band, and it’s just a flat-out good song.
17. “American Idiot” – American Idiot
The band announced their comeback with this first single in 2004. Suddenly, everyone was back on the bandwagon, and Green Day had a new generation of fans.
18. “She” – Dookie
A quick power pop gem, “She” starts with a running bass line and has just enough greatness in it to get lodged in your head for good. Another song that you’d have to try really hard to dislike.
19. “Longview” – Dookie
This song has the most original instrument parts on Dookie. The toms of the drums brought attention to the solid skills of drummer Tre Cool, while the signature bass line generated an equal amount of attention to Mike Dirnt. Billy Joe Armstrong moves up and down the fretboard for different parts of the songs to compliment the awesome rhythm section.
20. “Geek Stink Breath” – Insomniac
Just like “Nice Guys Finish Last”, there’s nothing too special here, and I don’t think I’m far off when I say that Insomniac is the least popular of all the band’s albums. It’s almost a stretch to include this one, but it’s earned a small place in my heart.
21. “King For A Day” – Nimrod
The horns in this song kind of annoy me, so it doesn’t get too many plays, but I can see why the band plays it at almost every show: it’s high-energy, and allows for them to screw around for a few minutes.
22. “Peacemaker” – 21st Century Breakdown
A solid acoustic-driven number, this song bobs along with an undefined fervor and a Gogol Bordello-style bounce. I figured a couple of 21st Century Breakdown songs could hold down the back part of the playlist as a way to showcase where the band currently sits.
23. “Horseshoes & Handgrenades” – 21st Century Breakdown
When the record first came out, this was my favorite track, and the intensity is absolutely unmatched by anything else the band has ever done. Armstrong is pretty pissed off, evidenced by the opening line: “I’m not fucking around!”
24. “Waiting” – Warning:
A nice penultimate track because it combines the quiet and loud parts of Green Day into a nice pop song. As usual, Armstrong’s melody is well-crafted, and the song is a nice testament to the crossroads the band was at after this record came out.
25. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Nimrod
This song sounds like nothing else the band ever made. Armstrong and his guitar shine brightly next to the classical strings, while the lyrics are some of the best of his career. Who doesn’t know this song? A great place for the Green Day playlist journey to end.
Running time: 119 minutes