Instant Expert: Green Day
You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: Green Day.
Before they became a classic-rock band with big (rock operas!) and bigger (three new albums released within four months of each other!) ambitions, Green Day were a scrappy punk trio from California that wrote songs about masturbation and other slacker pastimes. When alternative music broke into the mainstream in the mid-'90s, Green Day unleashed 'Dookie,' an album that made them stars. Follow-up records mostly tanked -- the 1997 hit ballad 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' being a notable exception -- until 'American Idiot,' a No. 1 album, made them even bigger stars. So big, in fact, that they have the clout to release three new albums in quick succession.
Green Day's 2004 epic 'American Idiot' was a huge rebound for a group that most people had written off at the end of the '90s. But by refashioning themselves as a very important band with very important things to say, they tapped into the fears and cynicism that gripped so many people during the G.W. Bush era. Plus, it's all wrapped in a rock opera-style song cycle about some dude called Jesus of Suburbia who represents disenchanted youths across the nation.
Once they signed with a major label, Green Day sold out. 'Dookie' is for punk poseurs. Their second album 'Kerplunk' is for real punk fans.
My mom really likes 'Time of Your Life.'