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Assessing Green Day’s vast music catalogue

Posted on August 26, 2021 by Vauxhall Advance

By Cole Parkinson
Vauxhall Advance

Pretty much every person has one or two bands they’ve never seen that they’re dying to see. For me, that’s been Green Day.

With Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre currently on the road, my jealousy at everyone getting a chance to see my favourite band is running rampant.

And considering there are no stops in Alberta coming any time soon, I’ve come to the realization it will be a while yet until I’ll be able to accomplish that goal. They haven’t played in Calgary since 2005 and Edmonton in 2009, so I think it’s safe to say Alberta isn’t a top priority for their booking agents. Regardless, this summer has been dominated by listening to the entirety of Green Day’s discography — and spoiler alert, it’s fantastic.

11. Father of All Motherf***ers (2019)

Green Day’s latest album is easily the worst. There’s a couple of really great tracks, but it’s largely a forgettable and expendable album that doesn’t sink its hooks into you.

It’s a really short album with a run time of just over 26 minutes, but I hardly find myself drawn back to listening to the entire thing. While Green Day’s mid-2000s side project — the Foxboro Hot Tubs — was a hugely successful throwback to 60s and 70s garage rock, this record doesn’t have the same effect. Maybe because I come to expect something when the name on the album is Green Day, or maybe because the songs just aren’t that good — or both. Despite my lukewarm reception to the entire record, I do love “Take the Money and Crawl”.

Top three songs: “Sugar Youth”, “Take the Money and Crawl”, and “Graffitia”

10. The Trilogy — Uno/Dos/Tre (2012-2013)

Yes, these are three separate albums, but it’s a trilogy of records that are all part of the same release cycle.

There are 37 songs released between the three albums, and if I were to pick my favourite 15 out of the bunch, that record would score higher than number 10. But, that’s what I’ve argued since the trilogy was released — my top 15 wouldn’t be the same as your top 15 and with all 37 songs released, we don’t have to do that.

That being said, there’s a lot of mediocre songs baked into the 37. There are tons of great ones on each record though, and it’s worth exploring front to back to see which ones you particularly like and which ones you don’t.

Top three songs: “Rusty James”, “Lazy Bones”, and “X-Kid”

9. 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (1991)

Like with the trilogy, I’m kind of cheating with 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours as it’s a compilation of the first record and first two EPs. But considering this is the version available on streaming services, and the compilation features some of the best early Green Day songs, we’ll roll with it.

It’s also the only record to feature John Kiffmeyer on the drums as he left shortly after.

It hurts to put this record at number nine considering it has one of my favourite Green Day songs on it — “Only of You”. There’s a ton of great early GD songs that may not get a ton of play these days, but they’re still well worth your time if you’ve never explored past their most popular songs.

Top three songs: “Going to Pasalacqua”, “Dry Ice”, and “Only of You”

8. Revolution Radio (2016)

After the Trilogy experiment, fans wondered where Green Day would head next, and that was answered a few years later with Revolution Radio.

It feels more like a sequel to American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown than the trilogy did, and I think it’s a great record. It also corrected a major issue I had with the trilogy, which was the guitar tone.

Top three songs: “Bang Bang”, “Revolution Radio”, and “Forever Now”

7. Kerplunk (1991)

Kerplunk was the precursor to Green Day achieving superstardom.

The songwriting was obviously there and while the production on this record isn’t great, the songs are. The 12-song album is a great listen from start to finish, and it’s easy to see why Green Day was on the verge of a breakout back then.

Top three songs: “One of My Lies”, “80”, “Who Wrote Holden Caufield?”

6. 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

After the smash hit of American Idiot, Green Day opted to go bigger with 21st Century Breakdown.

The album is another rock opera focusing on two characters — Christian and Gloria — as they navigate their lives during the 21st century. At just under 70 minutes, the album is a mammoth but the runtime never feels overly long, despite a few lesser tracks. Those are few and far between though as the vast majority of the record is Billie Joe at his best in terms of songwriting.

Top three songs: “21st Century Breakdown”, “East Jesus Nowhere”, and “¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)”

5. Dookie (1994)

I’m sure plenty of people would shake their head with Dookie only being ranked number five — and trust me, I get it. It’s the record everyone knows and loves, and for good reason — it’s a fantastic record.

There’s not a single song bad song on here, and everything from songwriting, production, track listing, and everything in between is perfect.

Dookie is arguably one of the biggest records from the 90s and brought punk rock back into the mainstream.

Every performance is top notch and there really aren’t any negatives when looking at this record. Without it, life in the punk scene wouldn’t be the same, despite people still proclaiming “Green Day isn’t punk.” But, in my opinion, there’s nothing less punk than gatekeeping.

Top three songs: “Having a Blast”, “She”, and “Sassafras Roots”

4. Warning (2000)

Back when it was released, Warning was the unwanted stepchild among Green Day records. While the vast majority of fans have come around on it, I still can’t believe people disliked it as much as they did.

Yes, it’s vastly different from any record they had done before it, but it’s incredibly well written, especially from a lyrical standpoint.

Green Day was coming to a crossroads with this record, and it was at a low point in their career where their popularity wasn’t as high as it had been in the mid-90s. To release a folk-rock based record was a huge gamble, and while it didn’t really pay off, it did lead to one of their best albums.

I love it to death and I’ve had it on repeat all summer.

Top three songs: “Church on Sunday”, “Jackass”, and “Waiting”

3. American Idiot (2004)

American Idiot changed my life in 2004. I had heard of Green Day before and had listened to quite a few songs, but the release of American Idiot was life-altering. Like Dookie was to kids growing up in the mid-90s, American Idiot was the first punk rock record that I owned and it completely changed my view on music.

It was one of the first records that made me want to pick up a guitar and it also started my love for Gibson Les Paul Juniors. It’s one of those records that sounds best played front to back, and while people know plenty of the songs from it, I’d ask anyone to listen to it from start to finish and tell me it’s not a masterpiece.

Top three songs: “Jesus of Suburbia”, “Letterbomb”, and “Whatsername”

2. nimrod. (1997) 

While Warning saw Green Day fully jump into experimentation, nimrod. was the real catalyst to that shift in tones.

From beginning to end, this record has everything from punk rock, pop-punk, hardcore, acoustic ballads, surf rock, and pretty much everything in between. It’s easily the most interesting listen of any of Green Day’s catalogue and it still more than holds up today.

If there is one negative it’s the fact they decided not to include “Desensitized” on the tracklist, which is arguably one of my favourite Green Day songs.  Alas, the tracklist is still fantastic and features song great hidden gems that the casual fan may not know.

Top three songs: “The Grouch”, “Scattered”, and “Prosthetic Head”

1. Insomniac (1995)

After Dookie was released, the punk scene turned on Green Day for releasing an album on a major label — which pissed off Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre.

Along with Billie being a new father and not getting much sleep, Green Day hit the studio with faster, angrier, and louder songs knowing full well it wouldn’t sell as well as Dookie.

And it didn’t, but in my opinion, it’s even better than the high standards set by Dookie. It’s not like it’s a complete 180 or anything, but Insomniac wasn’t nearly as poppy and the songs deal with a variety of issues that weren’t radio-friendly.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the guitar tone on this record as it’s my favourite out of all the GD records.

If you’re one of those people who say “the only Green Day record worth anything is Dookie”, I’d implore you to revisit Insomniac and tell me with a straight face it isn’t a great record.

Top three songs: “86”, “Panic Song”, and Stuart and the Ave.”

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