Monday, February 3, 2014

Green Day - Dookie

To be quite honest, considering the 20th anniversary of Green Day's third album, Dookie, was not something I had written down on the calender.

Then I began noticing a lot of attention last week around this record, some of it very passionate accounts of fans who were around the age of puberty when Dookie hit. I point out the age of these writers because it's relevant here. Those are the same years where the emotional bonds with music really begin to take hold. You're suddenly aware of music's ability to adhere with a memory, how the melody can change a mood, and how a lyric can perfectly express the way you feel.

And when you consider how the record's spastic rhythms perfectly matched the Mountain Dew pace of a 13 year-old boy, its punky guitar 'n bass also came with a sugar coating and Billy Joe Armstrong's lyrics could easily be lifted from a Ritalin-gobbling freshman journal penned by any number of rejected weirdos just trying not to be singled out.

Call it the first masterpiece of the ADHD generation, but lets not kid ourselves and put an asterisk by that praise and point out that Dookie's success would not even be possible without the wake that Nevermind created.

There's also a very distinct similarity between these two records, a pair of widely popular efforts that helped define the 90's. They are both indebted to punk rock and have a blatant love of the pop formula, but Cobain's muse feels a bit more natural and certainly more darker than Armstrong's.

To put it bluntly, there's not a thing on Dookie that could pass for pure genius and even at its most basic level, the subject matters discussed throughout the record are little more than the complaints of a chemically imbalanced young American male-a white one at that-who had the advantage of an industry willing to try anything to get a handle on its young audience.

And since Green Day runs on an equal amount of coffee, cream and sugar, the end result was a perfectly positioned package of radio favorites that struck 12-year old ears for the first time. The ones is our area were provided with radio edits of "Longview" that featured special effect noises in place of words like "masturbation" and "fucking," ensuring that it would be another 5 years before the kids would figure out what the song was really about.

Sure, Armstrong manages to sneak in a few moments of personal introspection: "Coming Clean" is a legitimate coming out story written with honesty and braveness and "In The End" is another example of Armstrong addressing deeper emotional matters. But the reality is that the vast majority of Dookie centers around trivial  little dramas, highlighting a new population of  over-medicated teenage boys, addicted to immediate gratification and always opening up about their feelings instead of trying to address the root cause of their discontent first.
Don't ask where Burt is hiding.

Because this all came packaged in a faux punk rock cover (mine still has the Ernie doll on the back) and because there were millions of disinfranchised kids who related to and ate this candy bar up, Dookie became hugely successful and, by default, incredibly influential.

This all boils down to the fact that Dookie is, at its best, a three-star record, but because it now serves as ground zero for a huge segment of the record-buying public and their exposure to "punk" rock, this rating had to go up a notch.

What prevents it from being a five-star record? Its sheer laziness for one. The band cherry picked its riffs, postures and attitudes from the much braver souls before them, and in return they provided a grand statement of so much entitled narcissism that its closer to that turd on the cover than the diamond it received from its sales figures.

Dookie continues to be relevant to the novices that embraced it and related to its made-up dramas, while failing to provide any real incentive to check out the streets in which they came from. You always knew the Ramones were from N.Y.C. You understood that the Sex Pistols were very much a part of London. But with Green Day, the spotlight of the band's former address of 924 Gilman Street has turned into an insular examination of Armstrong's own headspace.

You have to wonder, had they represented their origins with a bit more dignity, wouldn't more of us be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dookie alongside the folks that cite it as an important element to their punk rock diplomas?

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