Tuesday, October 16, 2007
No. 193: Dookie
Band: Green Day
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: In a post-Nirvana world, the void of youth-oriented giant rock band was gaping. Green Day stepped in and kick started the pop-punk revival, by way of the Berkley hardcore scene. While being labeled as sellouts, the band brought back the relatively simple music style of early punk without actually singing about anything.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: "Dookie" is responsible for the success of Goldfinger and Blink-182, which is pretty annoying. It also, tangentially (though the Op Ivy revival), sorta brought back ska for a very small period. That totally sucked. On a more serious note, "Dookie's" brand of punk rock is typically 1990s in that it had all the sonic fury of punk rock without any of the political messages that came from the Sex Pistols, Clash, Dead Kennedys, etc. It is, basically, made for 12-year-old boys and that's who bought it, mostly.
Best song: "Longview" is a fun song, shallow as it may be.
Worst song: "F.O.D." isn't all that good.
Is it awesome?: Not really, but it's important.
There will always be a place for bands like Green Day, because there will always be 13-year-old boys and stupid frat guys. I'm not faulting them for having this audience; Someone needs to sell records to the white hat crowd.
The record is decidedly 1994, the year it came out. It's not really about anything, it's just a group of songs written by gutter punk kids about gutter punk life. There are breakups ("She"), living the East Bay gutter punk's life ("Welcome To Paradise") and general boredom ("Longview").
In fact, you could make a pretty good argument that Green Day is the gutter punk band that could. Being pronounced sellouts by the Gilman people doesn't totally tell the whole story; Green Day always made adolescent pop-punk. A major label switch didn't really change anything.
Look, I like gutter punks. Rather, I'm glad they exist and I've lamented the lack of them in D.C., where I live. I'm glad there is some unrest in American youth and I like the fact that this feeling erupts in gutter punk-ness.
The problem with gutter punks is that they rely on moronic political statements and fringe movements in order to express their gutter punkitude. The Radical cheerleaders, the multitude of socialist movements and the general free-for-all that is any protest (I say this as someone who had to attend an anti-war protest for graduate school).
I say all of this because "American Idiot" is not on this list and it assuredly would be, had the record not come out (2004) after the list was made (2003). "American Idiot" is the type of record that RS loves and is, basically, gutter punk religion.
Because I'm a pretty evolved dude, I have split feelings about "American Idiot." On one hand, I also find George W. Bush to be kind of a dolt and agree that the political system is screwed up in many ways. However, the actual anti-suburban/anti-government/anti-corporate/anti-everything ethos that Green Day basically laid out on the record.
The problem, of course, is that Green Day is on a major label. The reason the Gilman people refused Green Day, post-"Dookie," is that they are involved with the giant record label Reprise. They performed at Woodstock '94, basically a three-day Pepsi advertisement.
"Dookie" is made for early teenage boys. The cover is referential to the band's East Bay roots (the East Bay being the home of gutter punk-ness), but, otherwise the record is named after poop (it was originally going to be called "Liquid Dookie"). The breakout single is about masturbation and watching TV. "Basket Case" is about panic disorder (though teenagers surely think it is about being young and confused) and "Welcome To Paradise" is about the teenage gutter punk's dream -- living in a warehouse with other like-minded teenagers.
"Dookie" is kind of a perfect intersection of a void created by Kurt Cobain's death, a music-buying public's aging at the right time and the zeitgeist of the prosperous mid 1990s. That market is perfect for Green Day and "Dookie" is the band's high point.