Monday, June 24, 2019

100 Albums: "Dookie" by Green Day

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Green Day
Title: Dookie
Released: 1994
Genre: punk pop


Green Day was one of the standard bearers for the second wave of grunge, playing music that wasn't technically grunge and completely eschewing all of the movement's faux sophistication. (Remember when Smashing Pumpkins came out against moshing? Yeah, that was a thing!) Instead, Green Day broke with a dry punk aesthetic, a lead single about masturbation, and an album named after poop. Green Day got major label interest after their second album Kerplunk made waves in the indie scene. The demo for Dookie landed on the desk of producer Rick Cavallo who immediately recognized that it had potential to be huge. Supposedly (read as: I read this somewhere and can't remember where) he recorded most of the album during the band's rehearsals and tracked all of singer Billie Joe Armstrong's vocals in two days.

Dookie has one of the great rock-and-roll opening tracks in Burnout, which opens with a rapid-fire drum roll and Armstrong belting out "I declare I don't care no more!" The entire thing is only forty minutes, but I can't help but think that if it had been recorded even ten years later, a few of the back-end tracks might have gotten cut, as the disc does flag a bit towards the end. All though the closer F.O.D. is a pretty strong song, followed by two minutes of silence and then drummer Tré Cool singing another song about masturbation. The album spawned five radio singles, and they all still get play to this day.

I really like how rough-and-tumble this album feels. It's practically bursting with youthful energy. The vocals are extremely dry--they're not even doubled on most of the songs. The band wanted this record to sound like Sex Pistols. Mike Dirnt's bass sound is exactly how I like a rock bass guitar to sound: lots of attack, lots of movement, with some room scooped out for the kick drums. Cool's psychotic tom-slapping drumming keeps everything moving at an insane clip--the typical song is under two minutes long--and for most of those songs you get the impression that band is playing as fast as everyone can keep up. You can definitely hear the tempo slipping around a bit in songs like Longview. The whole affair is sparse and dry and dirty and I love it.

Further Listening: Green Day followed up Dookie with Insomnia, which was a disappointment. It has some great songs, but it starts weak and Armstrong's vocals feel off. After that, their sound fell much more in line with mainstream second-wave grunge. Their catalog is pretty deep, and while nothing comes close to being as good as Dookie, they have a few records that are extremely listenable. I recommend Warning most of all, and it's definitely one of their poppier ones. I haven't listened to Nimrod back to front, but it produced the band's most enduring single: Good Riddance (The Time Of Your Life) which became the soundtrack to every commencement ceremony in the country for about five years. There are a lot of fans of American Idiot, and while it's got some great singles, the operettas really don't work for me. After that they did a series of "garage rock" albums called ¡Uno!¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! that I rather enjoy, even if they are lesser works. ¡Uno! has my favorite Green Day song that doesn't sound like a Green Day song: Kill The DJ.

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