Green Day’s Albums Get Ranked Up!

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Green Day have risen to the top of the pop-punk stratosphere once again with the release of their new single, “Bang, Bang.” The lead single from the band’s upcoming twelfth album, Revolution Radio, the bay area rockers have their legions of fans on the edge of their seats, counting down the days until the album’s October 7th release date.

It’s hard to believe but Green Day have been around for almost thirty years. Through that time they have had their fair share of ups and downs; reinventing themselves and reinventing what a punk band can be. Here at Alternative Nation, we decided to take a look back and celebrate the fantastic career of Green Day by seeing how their discography stacks up as of now.

1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (1991)

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In 1991, Green Day released what has come to be known as their debut album. Combining the bands actual debut. The album which combines a few different Green Day recordings is raw and unpolished but shows small grains of sand that in retrospect, help you kind of get an idea for what this band was all about. A band clearly figuring out their strengths, the only album to feature drummer John Kiffmeyer serves more as a foot note to the history of Green Day than as a musical statement.

Key Track: At the Library

Uno, Dos and Tre (2012)

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I get it. Uno, Dos and Tre are individual albums. But for the sake of argument, I believe they work as one cohesive piece of music. That said, there is not a lot of cohesion here. Coming off back-to-back powerhouse, theme-heavy albums, it’s no surprise the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ decided to strip down their musical house and build it back up. While they clearly kept the garage, they didn’t sound as convincing as a garage band as hoped. With enough great songs here to make one fantastic album, it’s a wonder if would have benefited from cutting it down to one album. Maybe then release the B-Sides ala Red Hot Chili Peppers I’m Beside You. Green Day have never been guilty of mailing it in. “Oh Love” was a great lead single; showcasing the change in direction.  They certainly did not mail it in here. What they may be guilty of here is being too ambitions. Even if the end result isn’t as strong as hoped, you have to admire them for pushing themselves to this point. Most bands would rather play it safe than take chances. Green Day isn’t every band.

Key Track: Stray Heart

Warning (2000)

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By time the year 2000 came around, Green Day had been in the limelight for nearly six years. At the time it seemed as if Green Day’s pop-punk dominance disappeared with the 90’s. Warning was a far cry from what fans had come to expect. Gone was the ferocity of Insomniac, and the huge hooks and commercial viability of Dookie was nowhere in sight. What listeners got was a wide array of folk inspired, mild rockers. Joey Ramone and Johnny Rotten have been replaced by Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan here. While at times, a glimmer of their former glory shines through, there is a different Green Day on display on Warning. “Minority” was a huge single and remains a setlist staple to this day, Green Day spent more time out of their comfort zone than in it on this eclectic mix of songs that for the first time had listeners asking, “Has Green Day Matured?”

Key Track: Misery

Kerplunk (1992)

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Listening to Kerplunk now, you can see Green Day were on a mission; they just weren’t quite sure what that mission would be. Kerplunk hits all the right notes in terms of pop accessibility mixed with Ramones-esque punk enthusiasm. Leader Billie Joe Armstrong was coming into his own as a songwriter. While his best was till yet to come, you have to be impressed by his ability as an eighteen year old to craft such relatable songs. Twenty-four years after its release, Kerplunk stands up well; even when compared to the monstrously successful albums that were to follow.

Key Track: Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?

Nimrod (1997)

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Catapulted by the massively successful “Hitchin’ a Ride,” Nimrod showed Green Day for the first time moving away from straight punk. With elements of surf-rock, post punk, stadium rock and straight up ballads, the boy from Berkley showed they were not the one trick ponies some had come to believe. Drummer Tre Cool shines throughout the album, able to show off his whole arsenal of drumming abilities rather than relying on straight fast punk drumming. “Good Riddance (Time OF Your Life)” remains as inescapable now as it did then, proving just how good a song Green Day could write. Nimrod shows the type of variety and stylistic departures that 2012’s trio of albums was unable to with the same seamless execution. Through eighteen songs, the album ebbs and flows effortlessly through genre and tempo, without ever sacrificing its punch or its effectiveness.

Key Track: Platypus (I Hate You)

21st Century Breakdown (2009)

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The trio’s only album to be produced by the legendary Butch Vig, 21st Century Breakdown had the insane task of serving as the follow up to 2004’s massively successful American Idiot. Continuing in the vein of a rock opera, this time around it was the chaotic love story of Christian and Gloria at the center of it all. Featuring a steady balance of in your face punk, as well as some of Billie Joe Armstrong’s most vulnerable songwriting to date, 21st Century Breakdown appeals to fans of every era of Green Day’s storied career. With moments reminiscent of their mid-90’s heyday as well as the experimentation of Warning, Green Day was far from having a literal breakdown on this late-era gem.

Key Track: Horseshoes and Handgernades

Insomniac (1995)

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The evil twin to Dookie, Insomniac showed Green Day was just as able to put the punk into pop-punk as they previously put the pop. Fast, furious and fantastic, the album never lets up. Featuring Green Day classics such as “Brain Stew,” “Walking Contradiction” and “Geek Stink Breath,” there is no let up. Rather than give everyone Dookie 2, Green Day stood up to the masses and for the first time showed the music world that they operate on their own playing field. When they could have taken the easy road, they instead threw everyone a curve, going for a more abrasive sound. And it paid off. While not the commercial success of its predecessor, Insomniac stands the test of time as the band’s most aggressive, fun album to date. Kudos also for the awesome cover art.

Key Track: 86

American Idiot (2004)

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What can be said about an album that is a modern masterpiece? When Green Day misplaced (?) the master tapes for the proper followup to 2000’s Warning, the amazingly titled Cigarettes and Valentines, the band decided to start anew. There is something to be said about a piece of art that becomes synonymous with a period of time. That is precisely what American Idiot did. During the Bush-era times of the mid 2000’s, the world was a crazy place; and Green Day found a way to take the disaffection that encompassed a generation and make it into something remarkable. You could turn on the radio, put on a rock channel, a Top 40 channel, or an alternative channel and likely hear something from this album. The album not only gave Green Day a second shot of life, it pushed them to heights not before reached. The album spawned the massively successful singles “American Idiot,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Holiday” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” on route to being certified six times platinum. For all of those successes, no light on this classic album than the amazing, “Jesus of Suburbia.”

Key Track: Jesus of Suburbia

Dookie (1994)

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The album that started it all. Between being all over MTV as well as launching the mud fight heard ‘round the world at Woodstock ’94, Dookie forced everyone, even those with only a passing interest, to acknowledge Green Day’s arrival into the ethos of pop culture and music history. “When I come Around” and “Basketcase” became anthems for Generation X while “Longview” and Welcome To Paradise” remain fan favorites. During a time in which so much great, culturally relevant music was being released, Green Day’s major label debut was came out of nowhere to take the music world by storm. Leading the charge of the second coming of punk, Green Day took the genre to commercial heights never even imagined by the Ramones or Sex Pistols. In an era of alternative domination, Green Day etched their way in and stole the show. Never again would the band sound this fresh and this young. Despite their age, Dookie shows that Green Day were wise beyond their years in terms of crafting timeless music. The frenetic drumming of Tre Cool, bassist Mike Dirnt’s complete ownership of his instrument and Billie Joe Armstrong’s sarcastic, cynical lyrics set the stage for Green Day’s finest hour. Or at least their finest thirty-nine minutes.

Key Track: Longview

  • Michael Dolce

    No way is Insomniac ahead of Kerplunk nor should 21st Century Breakdown be anywhere near the top (its actually they’re worse). You have to concede the top 2 here (though i personally enjoy Kerplunk as my favorite) Here’s why 21st century is their worse: it was essentially American Idiot part 2…however released after Obama already took office and instilled hope in the masses making the message useless. The songs are forgettable at best (see the light, 21st century breakdown not withstanding). Overall, it was a chance to capitalize on the success of their classic rock opera in AI. Here’s the breakdown:

    21st Century Breakdown
    Uno Dos Tres
    (Sure it could have been one massive hit (double?) album but kudos for trying something different)
    1039 Smooth
    Insomniac
    (revisionist history aside, it was a colossal let down of a follow-up)
    Warning
    (Again kudos for going in a different direction)
    Nimrod
    (Much better follow up to Dookie)
    Kerplunk
    (Forget the last 4 tracks that are essentially bonus B-Sides – THIS is the definitive Green Day album. All 12 tracks are essential listens and standup 25 years later. I’d argue its a more perfect album than Dookie simply because there’s no throwaway tracks on it)
    Am Idiot
    (Not easy to be more relevant 10 years into breaking out, but they did it)
    Dookie
    (The hits on this album are unmatched – plus some non-radio gems like burnout, having a blast, pulling teeth are great)