90s Score: 8/10
2020 Score: 10/10
It can be hard being a Green Day fan. They’re the kind of band that inspires visceral reactions: either they are ardently praised as legends or venomously called out as hacks. However, if you are a self-respecting pop-punk fan, it’s nearly impossible to deny the influence and long-lasting appeal of Dookie. This is an album that transformed punk from a niche to a hot commodity worth packing stadiums for. Naturally, at the time this pissed off ‘real punks’ to no end, but over the past 25 years it has been heralded as a classic and for good reason. I know this might be controversial, but I believe it to be the best representation of the pop-punk genre and the one album where Green Day got the balance just right.
I never really understood the initial backlash for Dookie. Sure, it’s more polished but I’ve listened to their first two albums and it’s not like they were ever hardcore or anything. I suspect that the unprecedented popularity they received spurred much jealousy from other bands on the scene. After all, The Clash signed to a major label and no one dared ridicule those guys. Dookie is in fact just the right amount of radio pop and snarky underdog spirit. Billie Joe Armstrong sure knew his way around a melodic hook, but he was also just as liable to sing about seeing a “whore who says his life’s a bore.”
Very rarely does mainstream radio music tap into being a broke loser in your 20s, which is why this is still so refreshing after all these years. These days, pop music is all about perfection and far from self-aware. Take “Longview” for example. I can’t think of a more amazingly pathetic masturbation song. It reeks of pot, a hot sticky couch and an endless flow of self-loathing. Somehow it has endured. Despite, the subject matter, it’s now possible to hear suburban parents yelling along to it on the way home from work.
It’s easy to dismiss Dookie as overplayed and perhaps overrated. I admit I can’t really get excited about “When I Come Around” anymore but “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “She” and “Welcome to Paradise” are classic singles. They are neurotic without being mopey and juvenile or being TOO stupid. This isn’t easy to pull off. Too many songs of this ilk usually tilt to one side. Just ask Blink or hell, even later-era Green Day. But Dookie is the perfect balance.
Thankfully, you don’t even have to like the hits because the rest of the tracks are just as good if not better.“Pulling Teeth” blurs the line between giddy love and masochism. “Burnout” is THE manifesto of every ne’er-do-well. “I’m not growing up/I’m just burning out” should be scribbled in the back of every school agenda. Of course, even if you can’t do a full album of this stuff, there is no denying that the band sticks the landing. The one-two punch of “F.O.D.” and “All by Myself” sum up what made these guys such a big deal. They were just as liable to tell you to fuck off and die as they were to meekly giggle about playing with themselves.
So, even if it’s hard to defend Green Day’s last few releases (I’m looking at you Father of All Motherfuckers) that shouldn’t take anything away from Dookie. Some may see its release as the day when punk went corporate and to that, I say: get over yourself! Not many albums, punk or other, are this seamless, catchy, and still genuine. This is punk’s Rumours. If you don’t like it, you can go your own way.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy