Release Year: 2000
We now know that Green Day aren’t afraid to mess around with their sound, even if the result isn’t so great. But in 2000, the change came as a shock when their sixth album didn’t have the same brash, loud, and chaotic vibe of their previous effort. This LP showed a more mature band who realized sometimes life isn’t so bad. Now, the album is respected and regarded as one of their strongest. It’s been listed as their most unrated so many times it can’t hold that title anymore. It proves how time can make you see things differently.
The entire tone of the LP is very mellow and soft compared with their earlier releases. There are very few times where they let loose and get wild. The closest they get is on “Minority,” where they return to the brash, snotty, fuck you attitude we’ve come to love from them. Even though the message is very anti-authority, the music never gets loud and out of control. Rather, it resembles a jig and remains bouncy. Otherwise, most of the tracks are upbeat and uplifting thanks in part to the music. “Church on Sunday” has really bright, feel good music that makes you smile. Most likely inspired by Billie Joe’s marriage, it’s deals with a couple ready to take the next step even though there are some rough spots. “Castaway” is another super upbeat track with energetic music that’s a bit on the pop music side. The whole thing is so catchy, it’s hard to resist singing along. This one also has a positive message about taking on things by yourself and making it out in the end.
Just because the boys look at the bright side of life doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and unicorns. If you couldn’t guess from the title, “Misery” tells tragic tales of different characters who end up in undesirable situations. The whole song is steeped in this element of gloom, but what makes the track stand out is the drastic change in music. Some of it reminds you of a slow polka, while other parts sound like a gypsy tune. During the break there’s even a Mariachi section that adds to the melancholy nature of the song. It’s one of those tracks that may initially turn you off on first listen, but will win you over by the end.
The title track is playful and clever similar to “Walking Contradiction.” With music straight from “Picture Book” by the Kinks, the song is about living on the edge and not heeding for safety whether it’s talking to strangers or living life by a bumper sticker. There’s even Billie Joe’s life long mantra of “question everything” featured in the lyrics. Just as with most tracks on the album, it’s really catchy and upbeat. “Jackass” finds the band being humorous and sarcastic as they lament someone who’s annoying. It’s rumored the song is about the Blink-182 boys, but the band has never confirmed this. Either way, it’s full of spiteful lyrics like “To know you is to hate you/So loving you must be like suicide/I don’t mind if you don’t mind/I’m not the one that’s going to die” aimed at that one person you pretend to like. Green Day gets kinky on “Blood, Sex, and Booze” as they talk about the pain and pleasure of being a sadomasochist. For some reason, this has always been one of my favorite songs,but was probably considered taboo at the time. Now, how they address the subject is pretty tame.
Just as with their previous LP, the band looks to expand their sound by not only taking things down a notch, but also by playing around with different instruments. “Hold On” begins with a resonating harmonica solo by Billie Joe that calls to Bob Dylan, one of Armstrong’s influences for the album. The track, just like many others on the album, has a folk vibe with the steady acoustic guitar and mellow attitude. It’s another song where the boys get optimistic by saying “You gotta hold on/hold on to yourself.” The album closes with “Macy’s Day Parade.” At this point, Green Day’s ballads were a surprise to no one, but something about this one is so somber and stark. Armstrong sounds bittersweet as he sings “I’m thinking bought a brand new hope/one I’ll never know.” The mood of the track always makes me think of the death of the American dream. If anything it showed the mature side of these snotty punks, something the world wasn’t ready for in 2000.
It may have been misunderstood at the time, but now this LP is considered one of Green Day’s finest. Made during a time when they weren’t sure if they wanted to continue music, the record has a lot of elements that would pop up in their later material, such as softer ballads, playing around with different instruments, and experimenting with different sounds. As they learned not everyone was happy or liked their new direction, but in the end they knew not to give a shit and keep making the music they were proud to play.