In recent years, Green Day has become a scapegoat for all the faults of the recent incarnation pop-punk genre among music elitists and punk purists. I find that to be quite a shame, since they have proven to be one of the most versatile, enthusiastic groups out there. Still going strong after a quarter-century, Green Day never ceases to impress me with musical energy and ability to surprise audiences again and again with new sounds. While they've had their share of missteps, the highs of their canon are pretty high, and choosing just ten turned out to be quite a challenge for me.
10. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
If one were to trace back the roots of Green Day hate, it would all have to begin here: the poppy acoustic breakup ballad that really showed both the band's musical versatility and pop compatibility. While often criticized as proof that Green Day sold out, I see it as the exact opposite: The song was essentially career suicide, making a big hit but alienating the group's reliable fans and seriously damaging the sales of Warning. If anything, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" is a testament to this band's fearlessness, playing in a new style with no regard for the opinions of the masses. Its impact may have been diluted by overuse (and, for that matter, outright misuse), but it's a truly beautiful song.
9. Give Me Novacaine
From Green Day's most consistent, muscular album, "Give Me Novacaine" is easily one of the greatest highlights. Starting off with a relaxing, ambient feel, this track inches closer and closer to radical power pop until finally diving right into a heavier sound with the chorus.
Like "Minority," "Warning" assembles some pretty simple elements into something truly extraordinary. That's about where the similarities end. Whereas "Minority" had rage, "Warning" possesses frustration. It's irresistibly catchy, giving off a very Kinks-like vibe as Billie Joe laments the ennui of an overly sterilized, safe lifestyle.
7. Hitchin' a Ride
Right from the brief violin bit at the beginning, it's pretty clear that "Hitchin' a Ride" is a cut above the rest of Nimrod. "Brain Stew" notwithstanding, "Hitchin' a Ride" contains Green Day's best mixing of buildup and payoff, this time staggering it up. Every time I hear it, I'm fooled into thinking I've hit the payoff when the guitars first kick in, but it continues to progress even from there, hitting a heavy high somewhere between the middle and the end.
6. Welcome to Paradise
Insanely catchy, but with much more depth than most of the material on the deliberately adolescent Dookie. Nowhere have Billie Joe's vocals seemed more poignant and whiny, and it all serves this outstanding hit pretty well.
The beauty of "Minority" lies in its utter, unabashed simplicity. Take away the folksy acoustic intro and the tasteful harmonica bit, and the only thing that stands out about "Minority" is its sheer quality. It's truly ferocious, and I love every second of its energetic delivery.
What "Brain Stew" is to insomnia songs, "Longview" is to anthems about lethargy. Anyone who's ever stayed home all day watching crappy television and jacking off (read: all of us) will instantly bond with the clever, sensory lyrics, but the music itself is what really gets "Longview" going. You wouldn't know how good this will turn out to be just by listening to the drums at the beginning, but the bass kicks in in a matter of seconds and instantly makes this song a classic. It holds it all in until the chorus, which lets loose a poppy hook reminiscent of The Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict." It really is among the most expressive, relatable pop songs out there, and I strongly recommend it as an intro to early Green Day for those who are unfamiliar with the band.
American Idiot is where Green Day really started to lay on the serious political commentary, and nothing reflects this tendency better than "Holiday." It's one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard, but it's also an unbelievably in-depth political statement. Perhaps the song wouldn't have existed were it not for the war in Iraq, but as that war fades from popular memory, "Holiday" continues to stand out as one of cleverest, most universal protest songs of all time--all set to an UNBELIEVABLY catchy melody. As if it didn't need more bonuses, it leads beautifully into "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," another outstanding track on the exact opposite end of the emotional spectrum (Whereas "Holiday" is angry and energetic, "Boulevard" is resigned and cathartic). "Holiday," however, stands out as my favorite song from my favorite Green Day album.
2. Brain Stew
I find it to be the only compelling track from the otherwise negligible Insomniac album, but it sure is compelling! The guitar riff is seriously one of my all-time favorites, just overflowing with deliberately suppressed musical energy. It's a slow-burner, for sure, but it's one of the best and most energetic, particularly when the guitars let loose. The buildup is every bit as much fun as the payoff, which is utterly delightful. Hearing this is just such a rush of adrenaline, and it's one of the most irresistible songs ever. The lyrics plunge right into the issue of insomnia with "Longview"-like detail, establishing this as the ultimate insomnia song. Even Green Day's most vehement haters should admit that this song is a rush of pure excitement and heavy fun.
Far from the most popular Green Day song, but I think it just can't be beat. Everything about this song lives up to its title, and yet it's just so much fun to listen to that you'd never expect to find on a song with such haunting melodies and dark themes. Starting with a synthesizer intro to set the tone, the guitar and vocals keep it going. What really seals the deal on this song is the downbeat European accordion, which is an unusual but very appropriate backing instrument for a Green Day song. The lyrics are something else entirely, like Chuck Berry on God knows what kind of drugs, so depressing that it's somehow funny. Despite the perceived humor of the outrageously miserable story, there's something heartfelt about the plights of these drugged-up characters. Altogether, the whole of the song is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I truly believe it's this band's most overlooked song, coming from an entire album full of overlooked songs (I really, really liked Warning).