This album is notable for both Green Day and their fans several reasons. This release finds the band challenging themselves: not only do they experiment with different instruments and styles, but the lyrical content deals with “adult life” and getting older. Also, one of their biggest hits that made everyone see the band differently is found here. This is what allowed Green Day to move away from their punk roots and branch out. Though at 18 songs it is pretty lengthy, it still manages to be a really strong record.
Not one to completely abandon their established sound, the band have plenty of tracks that remind you of classic Green Day. “Nice Guys Finish Last” has the high energy and fast pace of some of their past material and of course, it’s catchy as hell. There’s also a hint of cynicism and brattiness here you can’t help but love. “Haushshinka” is another track that’s more in tune with their sound. Personally, I find this to be one of the best songs here; something about the tone and the way the riff rings out makes it very memorable. “Reject” could’ve easily come from their previous album as it deals with not obeying anyone but yourself. It has bouncy, upbeat music and a snotty attitude we’ve come to expect from the guys.
Things start to change on the excellent “Hitchin’ A Ride.” With a ragtime shuffling beat as the basis, Billie Joe sings about falling off the wagon and issues with staying sober. The band do a great job with capturing the vintage vibe; it actually sounds like a song from the ’20s, but since they mix in aggressive guitars they offer a unique blend of old and new. One of the best parts is when Billie unleashes a scream towards the end that prompts the music to lose control and chaos to erupt. Great energy, lots of aggression, and a different sound make this one of their stand out singles. “Walking Alone” begins with harmonica playing that while may be standard now was completely unexpected for the band at the time. They mix in some folk to complete this bleak song about losing childhood friends. It’s a good song that unfortunately gets overshadowed by some of the other tracks on the album.
“King for a Day” is now a live staple for the band and with big bouncing horns, ska influence, and a feel good mood it’s easy to see why. The horns here always remind me of a New Orleans marching band as it makes its way down the street. It’s a really campy track that questions gender norms proving Billie Joe isn’t like other rock stars. There may be some humor here, but the overall message is an important one and one that rings true today: life isn’t always black and white. Compared with the rest of the songs on the album, it sticks out the most, yet it remains one of their best tracks.
Though it’s been killed by radio, you can’t deny how great “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is. After hearing the song so many times over the years, it’s easy to write it off as overrated. But not only is it good, filled with hooks you’ll be humming for days, it’s a huge step for the band. This is the track that showed the world they could do more than three chord punk rock. It opened doors for them to evolve their sound. When the strings come in it’s downright pretty, which isn’t how you would describe most of their material. No matter how you look at it, this single is notable in their history and it’s aged incredibly well.
While the surf rock inspired instrumental “Last Ride In” is the only lackluster track, just about all the songs are great. The main issue with the album is the length. Because there are so many notable songs, a lot of the other ones get buried in the material. “Uptight” has a lighter mood than the other tracks, but gets pretty dark as it references suicide, while “All the Time” has a great rhythm thanks to the start/stop motion of the riff and is another track about getting wasting and burned out. Here, Billie has some clever lyrics. One of my favorite lines is: “All the time/A “New Year’s Resolution”/How soon that we forget.” It’s a tongue in cheek way of saying he failed his promise to tone down the drinking. Even though “Jinx” is reminiscent of “Bab’s Uvula Who?” in terms of lyrical content, it’s still a solid track with energetic music and self-deprecating lyrics. These songs are easy to miss on the record because there are stronger tracks to be found. But when you take the time to listen to them, you’ll find they’re pretty impressive.
Unlike their previous efforts that dealt with the woes of being a teen, the main theme here is “adult life” and coming to terms with responsibilities. This is best represented on the humorous “The Grouch.” All throughout Billie describe his moodiness, getting a gut like his dad, and struggling with sex. It clearly shows the anxiety of getting older, but also seems to be poking fun at those who adopt a crotchety persona as they age. “Worry Rock” paints a really bad and somewhat violent fight between a couple and how no one wants to take responsibility for it. Again, Billie’s songwriting shines with cheeky lines like “Fucked without a kiss” and “Where do we go from here/And what did you do with the directions?” “Redundant” is another one dealing with a troubled marriage. It depicts a couple who is suck in a rut to the point where “I Love You” has no meaning. The themes explored in these tracks show how the band were dealing with their new responsibilities being husbands and fathers, but that’s not to say their anger is completely missing.
Billie gets downright hateful on “Platypus (I Hate You).” Full of aggression, hate, and anger, he goes on name calling and describing how much he hates this person. It’s a return to his bratty persona with the violent music helping to get his message across. When he says things like “It brings me pleasure knowing you’re gonna die” it shows just how much he hates this person. Another track where he gets mean is “Take Back.” Again, the music here is aggressive and brash, taking a cue from their punk rock roots. The most notable thing about it is Billie’s growling vocals that make him sound like he’s about to attack.
Overall, the album gets 9/10. With a mix of their bratty attitude and frustration at growing up, this album is an important point in Green Day’s career. Not only were they writing about new experiences, but they also moved away from the three chord punk rock that made them popular. This is the record that allowed them to experiment with different instruments, sounds, and styles. It sees them growing as songwriters and musicians as they take the future of their career in their own hands and don’t look back. It may have been a rough time for Green Day, but it led to one of their strongest, yet oft overlooked albums.