Bruce Springsteen famously said that the "snare shot" that begins Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" "sounded like somebody kicked the door open to your mind." For me--what kicked my mind-door open-was the two hi-hat chicks that start Green Day's "Burnout" and the album Dookie. Every time I hear those two seemingly-meaningless count off beats, I know to hit that snare fill on my legs and bust into the first words of one of the most game-changing albums in my musical life.
On "Burnout", Billie Joe Armstrong outright declared he "don't care no more." When I was 12, he was a whole different kind of rock and roll idol for me. Kurt Cobain didn't care either, but I could never understand him anyway. Dookie took me from a radio grunge fan listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots to the underground music fan that I still am 20 years later. Dookie led to the immediate purchase of Kerplunk and 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours which in turn introduced me to Lookout! Records. It opened me up to getting into bands like Rancid and the Offspring, introducing me to Epitaph and Nitro, and everything snowballed from there. Let's throw in a cliché here, but fuck man, the rest is history. It's my history, but I'm sure I share a similar story with thousands of kids at various ages who discovered punk through Green Day's breakout album.
The first song I heard off the album was "Longview" while in my 7th grade woodshop class. We were drafting, and as I'm drawing an enlarged version of Bugs Bunny wearing a backwards baseball cap and baggy jeans or something, the song plays on Chicago's then-popular "alternative" station, Q101. That elastic bass line (allegedly written by Mike Dirnt while on acid, who forgot most of it afterwards) and the George of the Jungle toms sounded like nothing I had heard on the radio before. But then came the LYRICS. It had something like half the words bleeped out-I'm sure I didn't fill in the blank on the masturbation line at that point-but I realized that this song was crazy different. It's nuts to think about a song like that being a radio hit. "And I smell like shiiiiiit…"
"Basketcase" and "When I Come Around" were the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" of the punk genre, catapulting dozens of punk bands into the spotlight, who grabbed major label deals and radio play on rock stations already looking for the next big thing after grunge. Reprise took a big gamble on these bay-area youngsters, with Rob Cavallo convincing them to sign with the label partly due to his history of working with The Muffs. Him and Jerry Finn produced and mixed the album respectively, and while it took a couple tries on the mixing, the end result captured Green Day's brattiness while beefing them up just enough. Tré Cool's snare drums kicked ass and his constant cymbal crashes shimmered (convincing me as a young drummer to overplay my crash cymbals), Dirnt's bass sat nicely in its own domain beneath the guitars, letting his melodic fills poke through, and Armstrong's guitars sounded full but still retained that Stratocaster punk tone. If you've heard the demo tapes that are floating around the internet, you know the songs were solidified and great before stepping into the studio with Cavallo and Finn, but much credit goes to those two for showcasing the trio at their best, and the powerful production was a huge part of their mainstream success.
Re-recorded from its Kerplunk version, "Welcome to Paradise" was a big radio single as well as "She." But it's the deep cuts being so damn good that raise this to classic album status. The country twang and harmonies of "Pulling Teeth" were always one of my favorite parts of the album. The back-half had some of the catchiest numbers like "Sassafras Roots" and the speedy "In the End." And it got me everytime the way "F.O.D." exploded from my speakers into electric awesomeness after a couple acoustic verses. In the golden age of secret tracks, Cool's silly and self-deprecating "All By Myself" was one of the few I bothered to listen to every time I spun the disc. Even the artwork is iconic, with references to their favorite musicians: Patti Smith is there, as well as Angus Young and a Black Sabbath nod, with other references to people around their Bay Area scene.
Green Day achieved a 3-peat with Kerplunk, Dookie and Insomniac. They exploded back into relevance with 2004's American Idiot. But Dookie will always be their apex- not only being their highest selling and most influential album, but coincidentally having the best batch of songs. These are sing-alongs from beginning to secret-track end. The album ignited a punk explosion, opening the door to indie label punk bands to grow into career bands and recording the best albums of their careers. Many cried sellout at Green Day at the time and the Gilman banned them, but without this album, who knows if I would be a punk rock fan today. I owe them big. I started this review with an old quote, so how about another journalists' favorite to end. They say everyone that heard the Velvet Underground started a band. Though Green Day achieved much more popularity than VU ever did during their tenure, I'm positive they influenced just as many kids to start a band. Hell, I was one of them.