The 1995 album by Green Day divided some fans and critics with some claiming it strays far from their predecessor (Dookie) and others saying nothing has changed since then. When you really take the time to listen to the album and look at the lyrics, you’ll see this is actually a pretty great record and this is where Green Day really matured as song writers, with the songs straying away from boredom, masturbation, and getting high and heading more towards the lives of losers, burn outs, and drug addicts (and they don’t paint a pretty picture). Lyrically, this is my favorite Green Day album.
This album is definitely darker and heavier than their previous effort as it explores themes of isolation, paranoia, self-loathing, and deprivation. You can hear the darker sound on the opening track “Armatage Shanks.” The heavy hitting drums that introduce the track sound like they can hit you in the gut. You can hear all the energy from the previous album, but the mood of hopelessness comes at full force when Billie sings “Stranded lost inside myself/ my own worst friend/My own closest enemy.” This can not only be heard in the lyrics, but in the music as well. The guitars are harsher, dirtier and more abrasive on this record. The drums are heavier too, with them thudding and plowing through the song. The bass riffs are great as well; some of the most memorable ones come from this album.
The darkness of this album may not be apparent at first because the music is very uptempo and fast. But when you look at the lyrics you realize the dark topics the band is dealing with here. The whole album deals with losers who are unemployed, mooch off of others, are hooked on drugs, and hate everyone. It ties in very well with the album title. “Brat” is a prime example of these themes. In a nutshell, the song is about a kid who is waiting for his parents to die, so he can get their inheritance. In other words, he doesn’t want to get a job. The hopeless tone comes back with the line “Nothing good can last.” It’s a song filled with dark humor and the band’s classic punk energy.
“Geek Stink Breath” is another song that deals with someone giving up and going on the destructive path of drugs. Not only is there a great guitar riff, the gruesome lyrics about “picking scabs off my face” are a great description about how drugs fuck you up. “Tight Wad Hill” is another song dealing with drugs and the people who give themselves over to them. Lyrics like “Drugstore hooligan, another white trash mannequin/On display to rot up the hill” paint a part of town that you never want to go to. To emphasize the drug subject, the music itself is frantic like a junkie looking for his next fix. It’s clear that the characters in these songs are not kicking back with some hash; they’re hooked on the harder stuff.
With the theme of drug addicts and deadbeats, one can think of this as a continuation of Dookie. The characters of the songs have the same attitudes as they did on the previous album: laziness, snottiness, being a brat, and hating others. But these characters have ended up on skid row because they don’t want to do anything or let anyone into their lives. It’s most likely unintentional that the albums link up this way, but it’s really cool that they do. It’s this ongoing theme that makes this album great. Also, the progression from the previous album to this one can also describe what Billie was going through at the time.
The previous year the band exploded with great success and everyone wanted a piece of them. But along with that came people calling them sell outs and them being shunned from Gilman street where they got their start. The negativity and dejection found here could easily stem from Billie’s experience with fame. One song that seems to relate directly from the band’s life is “86.” The lyrics deal with how sometimes you can’t go home again; you’re unwanted and unwelcomed. Lyrics like “What brings you around/did you lose something the last time you were here?” and “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass” seems to allude to their experience with Gilman street and how after they signed with a major label, they were banned from the place. The subject matter here makes the song kind of somber and hopeless; if you can’t go home, where can you go?
The songs themselves are awesome and catchy like always. Some of the great tracks on this album are “Brainstew/Jaded,” which has the great drudging, slow riff and descriptive, gruesome lyrics such as “My eyes feel like they’re gonna bleed/Dried up and bulging out my skull.” Every unpleasant thing Billie talks about you can picture perfectly in your head. There’s also one of the best guitar riffs here. It’s slow and thumping; it also has this dark, harsh sound to it. All of it put together sounds like someone who is on the edge of losing control. Another great song is “Panic Song,” which has a racing, almost sweating bass riff that opens the song. “Walking Contradiction” is another great song that shows off how clever Green Day is at writing. As you may guess from the song title, the entire song is filled with contradictions. The chorus screams “I have no belief/but I believe I’m a walking contradiction/and I ain’t got no rights.” Not only is it witty, it’s catchy as hell too.
Overall this album gets 9/10. Despite this album being much darker than their previous effort, it’s still full of great, catchy songs the kind that Green Day is known for. This album also sees the band grow up a little bit. The songs here deal with darker topics and move away from things like boredom and masturbation. They improve as song writers and musicians and prove that they are a band that is comprised of immense talent. If you passed up this album or don’t know much about it, sit down and give it a listen. If the lyrics don’t get you then the dirty, aggressive music will.