Friday, 5 October 2012

05/10/12 - Five Green Day albums you should know about

I’m a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool Green Day fan. Like a lot of people my age, it was their third album, Dookie, that got me into them – that was released in 1994, when I was twelve years old. Around the same time came Offspring’s Smash album, and those are probably the two LPs I know better than any others, having listened to them relentlessly on repeat throughout my teenage years. I still regularly listen to both. They’ve aged well.
Dookie, of course, was a controversial album (unbeknownst to my prepubescent self), given that it was Green Day’s first after signing to a major label, Reprise. Having formed in 1987 amongst the blossoming punk scene of Berkeley, California, their second album Kerplunk sold 50,000 copies on the Lookout! label and encouraged the big guns to start sniffing around; major label signings are anathema to the grass-roots spit-n-sawdust punk fan, and many abandoned them as ‘sell outs’. But fuck them – Dookie was a kickass album that sold sixteen million copies and won a Grammy, and it’s packed with spectacular tunes.
In recent years Green Day have proved themselves to be an experimental and eclectic group, with American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown being dramatic, intricate concept albums. But in 2012 they’ve returned to their stripped-back early-nineties punk sound with their ninth studio album, ¡Uno!, which Billie Joe Armstrong describes as ‘power pop – somewhere between AC/DC and early Beatles’. And it’s awesome – genuinely the best new album I’ve heard in ages. If you haven’t heard it, go and buy it now. Seriously.
(Excitingly, it’s only the first part of a three part series, with ¡Dos! coming in a couple of months and ¡Tre! due for release in January…)

You know who Green Day are. They’re ubiquitous, everyone can hum at least one of their songs, even if they don’t know anything else about them. You’re probably aware of Dookie and American Idiot. So the theme for this week’s JuicyPips is: Five other Green Day albums you should know about

If you liked Dookie, you’ll love Insomniac. It’s about as flawless as a nineties punk album can be, with zero filler – every track is superb. Imagine the upbeat punk-pop of Dookie refracted through a darker, grimier filter.
Brain Stew, Geek Stink Breath and Bab’s Uvula Who? have killer riffs, Panic Song is epic in the true sense of the word, and Stuart and the Ave. is enormously catchy. Without a hint of exaggeration, I’d say this is one of my favourite albums ever, by anyone.

Foxboro Hot Tubs – Stop, Drop and Roll!!!
Released in 2008, this album came four years after American Idiot and was recorded at the same time as 21st Century Breakdown. While this was the era of Green Day writing massive, swooping rock operas, Stop, Drop and Roll!!! gave the band an outlet to record something a little less substantial and more fun; recording under the name ‘Foxboro Hot Tubs’, there’s no indication anywhere on the album that it’s got anything to do with Green Day. But it is them. Promise.
Think sixties-era rock ‘n’ roll pop songs, recorded on an eight-track. A hidden gem, worth digging out.

2000’s Warning is not most Green Day fans’ favourite album. Indeed, it’s the band’s worst-selling release. But give it a chance, it’s actually bloody good – just don’t expect it to sound anything like 1990s Green Day.
It was, in a sense, a vehicle for Billie Joe to extend his creative wings a little and experiment with a few different sounds and genres; you can see the beginnings of American Idiot in here, as they dabble with folk music, accordions and acoustic guitars. It’s worth buying just for Misery, a waltz-time track featuring mariachi brass, accordions and strings. It’s got some super-catchy tunes, too – Minority and Castaway will stick in your head all day.

The Network – Money Money 2020
Like the Foxboro Hot Tubs project, The Network is another uncredited Green Day thing. It’s a New Wave punk affair from 2003 and, again, there’s no mention anywhere on the sleeve of it being anything to do with Green Day, but despite their vehement denial of any connection, it definitely is them. Indeed, the rumour is that Money Money 2020 is very closely related to Green Day’s unreleased album Cigarettes & Valentines. (If you don’t know the story, Cigarettes & Valentines was the album that was supposed to follow Warning, but in 2003 the master tapes were stolen from the studio and never recovered; disheartened and disillusioned by the loss and not wanting to re-record the whole thing from scratch, they moved on and created American Idiot instead.)
The sound of The Network is very much 1980s New Wave; dancey, ska-influenced punk with electronica overtones. Brilliantly weird, and well worth a listen.

1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
This is generally referred to as Green Day’s first album, but in fact it’s technically a compilation. Their first album was actually 39/Smooth, released in 1990, which had ten tracks. It was then repackaged in 1991 to include the two EPs Slappy [1990] and 1,000 Hours [1989] along with an extra song, bringing the total up to 19 tracks for the awkwardly-named 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.
You can see the genesis of Green Day’s signature punk sound in this album. 1,000 Hours was originally recorded in 1988 when the band were still called Sweet Children, and Slappy featured Paper Lanterns – one of my favourite Green Day songs. The whole of 1,039… has a stripped, bare-bones feel – remove the polish from Dookie and you’ll find this.

So there you go. A short, sharp JuicyPips. Very punk.

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