I interpreted the theme as “wtf is this doing here?”, and decided that the pick had to be something both stylistically incongruous and without clear reason for existence in the collection. This ruled out lots of potentials: I know exactly why Sugababes albums are in the collection, for instance, and they’re not incongruous because I won several. Even the solitary and very incongruous Will Young album is there because of a fantabulous single that I just had to own (“Switch It On”). There are, of course, lots of records that I can’t remember why I bought them, but very few of them also seem incongruous stylistically (“let’s buy some more minimal faux-jazz/techno/whatever”).
Which left this, the third record by Green Day, which came out just before my 15th birthday and was gifted to me, by my older brother, shortly after that birthday, and which seems completely incongruous sitting in between Al Green and Grizzly Bear. 14 songs, 39 minutes, lyrical concerns as diverse and deep as masturbating and smoking pot. I listened to it intensely for a few months, and then put it away and got into other stuff that sounded nothing like this, and I haven’t listened to this in the intervening 20+ years.
I remember my friend Adam being very impressed by the drummer when I was a teenager, and not really understanding why: I recall being told many moons ago that playing music, like driving, was much easier to do quickly, and much harder to do slowly, so as fast as Tré Cool’s drumrolls were, they never really impressed. (Not playing an instrument, I dunno if that car analogy is true; it’s certainly more awkward to creep along on the clutch than it is to cruise at 55mph, though.)
Why this was in the collection I wasn’t sure; although I can remember its origin, I was sure I’d purged the copy my brother gave me aeons ago, but maybe the fact that it was a gift compelled me to hang on to it. I certainly never intended or expected to listen to it again.
Was it worth listening to again? Not really; I stopped identifying with it and finding it amusing within a few months when I was a teenager, and the intervening decades have done nothing to redress that chasm which opened up between who I thought I was and who this record seemed to be about and for. In my 30s Dookie sounds even more puerile and one-dimensional than it used to, even if that dimension is one of snottily good fun. My hobbies – bikes and boardgames and football and CDs – may still be adolescent to the core, but this wasn’t going to appeal even to a guilty-pleasure-centre in my brain. There are some nice melodies, but it is very, very samey, and tied strictly to an aesthetic that I never really liked anyway.
Green Day, it should be noted, have sold 75 million albums over the last 21 years. That’s seventy-five million. 75,000,000. More than the population of the United Kingdom. Wtf?
Rob listened: Nice to hear this on the same evening as Bob Mould. I liked ‘Basket Case’ when it came out but the rest of it seemed cookie-cutter and just uninteresting on some way. The music, the attitude, the performance all seem to have taken just half a step back from the point of being different, dangerous, enticing. Whereas Mould and Husker Du worked an arguably similar furrow (much earlier) they had edges and hooks and burrs and despair and fights and joy all of which allowed their songs to grow into my heart. Green Day seemed instead like something pre-packaged to pluck from a shelf I don’t need to visit any more.
Tom listened: Having never knowingly listened to Green Day before (unless they were the ones who did that Teenage Dirtbag song?) and having never felt the urge to, I came into Dookie with low expectations and a sinking heart. The dreadful album cover doesn’t help either!
It was alright I suppose.
But, as a result of losing my Green Day virginity, I am more confused than ever about music and my relationship with it, as in:
What were Green Day doing so right that they could sell millions and millions of records whilst countless other bands who sound similar (as in guitar based American indie) but better (Huskers, Replacements, Pixies, Buffalo Tom, Fugazi, Girls vs Boys) could only attract a fraction of their audience?
And what exactly were those other bands doing differently in terms of songwriting, musicianship and production that means they appeal to me so much whilst Green Day really don’t?
These are rhetorical questions!