And then after the ZZ Top disappointment, I turned to Green Day. I was mostly familiar with Dookie (classic, needless to say) and American Idiot (another great album). This time though I listened to the rest of their catalog up to and including the 21st Century Breakdown from last year.
Let me start this with a quick anecdote. I have a cousin in northern California, let’s just call him Kevin (unless he wants his name revealed but I’ll let him comment if that’s the case). So Kev’ was a singer for a punk band back in the 80’s (and occasionally still today). I visited him in northern California when I was about 16 and that was the first time I ever saw needles and such at parties…let’s just say for me it was a bit of an eye-opener to say the least. Anyway, at one point in the 80’s, his band actually opened across California for the pre-Dookie Green Day. For Kev’, Green Day was a “bunch of pussies” and not all that talented. So, let’s fast forward about 20 years later. He has a teenage daughter who idolizes Billy Joe. So that is like nature’s revenge I suppose. When I asked him about it, he quipped (and I paraphrase) “well, OK so I was just a bit jealous. They actually could write music whereas we were just fucking around.” The worst he said was when his daughter asked him to call up Billy Joe for an autograph or free concert tix “because you played with him so you guys are like tight, right dad?”
I always (and still) love the Dookie album and enjoy listening to American Idiot. However, the rest of the catalog IMHO pales in comparison to those two opuses. The early stuff sounds like just about any other California punk band. After Dookie, there were a few hits but they were like nostalgic “wish I was back in high school when life was so much less complicated” like “Wake Me Up When September Ends” or “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. American Idiot seems to have been a radical (and welcome) departure for them with better songwriting and great licks but then 21st Century Breakdown seems to sound too familiar and not at all as passionate or original as American Idiot. Listening to Bullet in a Bible, I was a bit fed up with “Let’s hear you fucking England” during the refrain of almost every song as if Billy Joe really though the entire Great Fucking Kingdom was at his concert and not just some the kids and punters from Milton Keanes (could you imagine Coldplay saying “Let’s hear you fucking americans” in Chicago, Boston, New York or Miami? I think they’d probably say the city name each time don’t you?). Well, maybe I am making a bit of a stink out of nothing but this is my blog so I guess that’s what we do on these blogs right? Anyway, as for the music, I feel that, well frankly, they don’t have a guitar soloist at all in the group. Yes, they can write a great fucking power chord progression and the bass playing is original and a trademark (and this a throwback to that California punk roots and the dieu of California punk bassists, The Flea) but I realized that there are no real guitar solos in their work. Perhaps someone will correct me on that but I didn’t find any listening to their catalog. Is that gonna keep me from banging my head on the dashboard when I hear “Welcome to Paradise” or “Basket Case”? Not at all, just a realization is all.