photo & text by nacrowe
along with THE OFFSPRING and NO DOUBT, GREEN DAY was the soundtrack to my post-NIRVANA youth, especially once my family moved to NIGERIA from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the mid 1990s. obviously DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994) was a landmark record not just for popularizing POP PUNK (and defanging the self-destructive aspects of SEATTLE-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK), but also for just being a great pop record.
in a sense, the follow-up INSOMNIAC (REPRISE, 1995) proved that such success was not a fluke and proved the genre itself viable for all that would follow suit (i.e. BLINK-182, FALL OUT BOY, NEW FOUND GLORY, SUM 41, PARAMORE, A DAY TO REMEMBER). technically not a sophomore album, as the band had made several records for indie label LOOKOUT! RECORDS, INSOMNIAC was a major label follow-up that basically double-down on the formula of simplified riffage, rolling kinetic drumming and memorable bass-lines that made GREEN DAY such a powerful power trio to begin with. in many ways i always associated the band sonically more with POWER POP and BRITISH INVASION bands than PUNK ROCK in general. GREEN DAY in my mind was always a GARAGE band with really great songs, with the PUNK thing being more of an aesthetic based on their EAST BAY roots. in fact the feverishly independent GILMAN STREET scene out of BERKELEY was surprisingly open-minded in terms of musical styles supported (this despite their reputation for having ideological opposition to anything and all things corporate), which included SKA hybrid bands like OPERATION IVY and proto-ART METAL like NEUROSIS in the mix.
this predilection for simplified yet effective songwriting would flourish on WARNING (REPRISE, 2000) years later, but i see it in an embryonic stage on INSOMNIAC in songs like "GEEK STINK BREATH," "BRAIN STEW/JADED" and my favorite song off the record, "WALKING CONTRADICTION." other standout tracks like "86," "ARMATAGE SHANKS" and "STUCK WITH ME" are raging, start-stop, barn-burners that come off like vintage GREEN DAY. today i feel that BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG could write songs like this in his sleep, but here they are in full display. perhaps to get it out of his system or maybe not to risk alienating DOOKIE fans. im glad they transitioned out of this phase and took the real risks tha today they are known for.
who knew a rock opera was in their future. or a giant middle finger to the government when others cowered and shrank. now that is PUNK.