I was first introduced to Green Day through the song Basket Case which featured on a free tape that came with NME called WEA NME. As soon as the band burst in at the line “Am I just paranoid, or am I just stoned”, my ears pricked up and I was mesmerized. I spent a few weeks saving my pocket-money and forgoing my usual Saturday afternoon trips to the Games Workshop followed by double-egg and chips for 99p from Wimpy, and bought myself a copy of Dookie on cassette.
For months the album never left my walkman. I used to go to a school that was about 15 miles away from where I lived, and so every day I’d have to travel on the school bus from Wolverhampton to Telford. I was quite the little shit as a 12 year old, and had managed to wind up or upset most of the people who shared the bus with me. There was one lad in particular who I hated: he was one of the toughest kids in the year above, but I couldn’t help but goad him. He was one of those kids who thought they were the shit: cocky, arrogant, just a horrible person all round. He had the most ridiculous haircut (shaved sides with curtains, but his hair was then gelled into neat triangles) and one of those ill-advised teenaged moustaches that look more grubby than hairy. After a few violent run-ins with this lad, I was made to sit at the front of the bus next to the stewardess for the rest of the year – suffice to say, I spent a lot of time looking out of the window at the grey concrete of the M54 and getting lost in music. Green Day’s Dookie made these journeys almost bearable.
Album-opener ‘Burnout’ can’t help but bring a smile to my face: this song just sounds so positive with the simplicity of a nursery rhyme, and an opening that starts the album off with a bang. I’ve always thought that the rhythm section in Green Day was excellent, and the drumming in ‘Having a Blast’ certainly showcases this, being urgent and tight with interesting fills and rhythms. It has a really great chorus and enough variety in the structure to keep my attention. ‘Chump’ is vintage Green Day with its petulant opening line “I don’t know you, but I think I hate you”, three-chord verse, three-chord chorus and its song-structure lifted from every Sex Pistols song that you could care to hear. I always liked how ‘Chump’ seemed to blend seamlessly into the fantastic ‘Longview’ – a song that sees Green Day at their most accomplished in terms of musicianship and song-writing. The song opens with an excellent bouncing bass riff that is accentuated by a rolling drum beat until it builds to a full-out rock chorus. This really is Green Day at their best. ‘Welcome to Paradise’ sees the bass-playing continue to shine, and turns what could be another generic punk-rock song into something quite arresting, especially during the song’s instrumental section which adds a fresh direction to the song’s structure. ‘Pulling Teeth’ is incredibly dull, reminding me of a song that Weezer might have rejected for being too boring. ‘Basket Case’ is an absolute classic, albeit an overplayed one, but it will always have a special place in my heart. ‘She’ brings Mike Dirnt’s bass-playing back to the fore before turning into another Green Day-by-numbers offering. ‘Sassafras Roots’ sees Green Day continue to struggle up the travelator of blandness: an incredibly dull song that doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘When I Come Around’ turns things around, however, as this song in excellent, and is probably about as close as you’re going to get to a Green Day ballad beyond ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’. It’s songs like this that make it impossible for me to dislike Green Day because when they get it right, they do it spectacularly, which is all well and good as ‘Coming Clean’, ‘Emenius Sleepus’, and ‘In the End’ are tracks that all make me reach for the skip button. ‘F.O.D.’ is a little more interesting with its broken acoustic sound and excellent vocal melody during the first half of the song. I’m not sure that this one needed to turn into your usual Green Day fare, as the fragility of the opening verse and chorus make for very welcome listening. This being said, I still really enjoyed hearing this one again. The secret track ‘I Was Alone’ is a fun little ditty about masturbation - perhaps this is why Green Day are so easy to relate to as a teenage boy.
Dookie is quite the mixed-bag. I forgot just how good some of Green Day’s songs are, but also remembered what I find so off-putting about them: they serve up formulaic rock songs and pass them off as something political and rebellious. Through their faults and my own reservations, there’s a charm to this album that I just can’t seem to shake, and makes me resistant to see it go. I think I’ll keep hold of this one.