There’s a magical moment when you realize there exists music outside of what your parents listen to. For me it was in the summer of 1995 when my cousin played me Green Day: Dookie and The Offspring: Smash. Not only did those albums introduce me to punk music but furthermore it showed me there existed a world outside of Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf.
Dookie became my favorite album at the time and I couldn’t stop listening to it, when Green Day announced their next album was coming out I could not wait. I remember the video premiere of Geek Stink Breath and seeing them perform Stuck With Me live at the VMAs. Two of the things I realized immediately was that (a) It wasn’t nearly as catchy as Dookie and (b) it was a lot faster and more aggressive.
I enjoyed the album, but I didn’t love it. That wouldn’t happen for a few years later. I didn’t understand it. I guess it’s wrong to say I didn’t love it... I listened to the cassette non-stop, I learned the words to most of the songs... but it just sounded so different. I was a bigger fan of Nimrod when that came out a few years later.
A few years later I saw a VH1 Behind the Music on Green Day, they explained that this was their “punk album”. After Dookie came out many of the fans from the Lookout! Records days called them sellouts and claimed they were no longer punk. This was a response attempting to be fast, angry, and non-commercial. And they succeeded (mostly), except for Brain Stew this album doesn’t have nearly as many ‘massive hits’ as their later records had.
Listening to the album at 26 is leaps and bounds different then listening to it at 10. Now I can hear the frustration, I can hear the hurt and the pain. Songs like Armatage Shanks, No Pride and 86 all are packed with angry snarky hatred at their critics. However the best song on the album is Stuart and the Ave, the song that should have been their biggest hit. Why this was never released as a single I won’t know (I assume it has something to do with the phrase ‘now it’s all fucked up’ appearing multiple times in the song), it’s the catchiest song not just on the album, but possible in the bands entire career.
The band gets a lot of flack over the years for their new music (American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown) but I’m not one of those people. The band matured, I find those albums to be more honest than if Billie Joe was still writing about the stuff he wrote about on Kerplunk! and Dookie. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish they’d make more music like this.