Unpopular Opinion: Green Day is a Really Solid Band

No. Shut up. Sit down and let me finish.

Green Day is actually a really solid band.

Yeah I said it. What? You wanna fight about it? Okay fine. Green Day isn’t a really solid band…

Green Day is legitimately one of the greatest bands of the past two decades. They deserve credit for keeping the punk movement alive into the new millennium. They’re massively underrated as musicians and social commentators and their skills as live performers are jaw-dropping.

Yeah, fine. Click away. Plug your ears and shrink your world just a little bit more. God forbid someone challenge your preconceived notions.

I’m not saying they’re the sexiest band of all time.

You know what I can’t stand? When people say the worst thing about a band is that they’re not as good as another band. Yes, sure, fine, the Ramones are the best American punk band. I’m an Iggy fan myself but we can put the Ramones up at the top if it makes you feel better. So I guess everything short of Blitzkrieg Bop is just tripe worthy of the cultural dumpster then, huh? I mean if we’re throwing out Green Day on the pretext of “severe lack of Dee Dee Ramone” then I guess we’ve got to oust Black Flag and Joan Jett and Against Me while we’re at it. Hell, throw Motorhead out with the wash. It’s not like Lemmy ever did anything for the punk community.

So you know how serious I am, I’m going to say this in italics: Green Day is not the best band in history. They don’t have to be. They’re just really, really good.

And really easily confused by cameras.

Let’s get some of the easier canards out of the way here. First of all, being popular does not make you bad. Led Zeppelin is popular. And shitting on popular things does not make you a music aficionado; it makes you a snob. I refuse to believe a band’s revenue somehow affects their tonal quality. “But they’re sellouts!” I hear you shouting. Oh goodness me, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize stadium venues were so passé. Obviously all real music just so happens to occur at the acoustic open mic nights you frequent. Pardon me if I want a show.

Green Day languished in obscurity for years before lucking into a record contract, penning a chart topping album, coasting on the success with a few lackluster releases, and then outdoing themselves in fantastic form with a mid-career mega-hit. You might recognize this as the same pattern literally every band you’ve ever loved has followed. And I also don’t think that just because they wear the “punk” label means they’re somehow exempt from the need to reach larger audiences. They got bigger. They didn’t get worse.

This is where we fall back on the next piece of anti-Green Day propaganda: “They’re not actually punk! They’re just pop!”

SO IS ELVIS. SO ARE THE BEATLES. SO IS MICHAEL JACKSON. GUESS WHAT? SOME POP MUSIC IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD.

This guy kicked the Super Bowl’s ass harder than the Stones and the Who combined. Deal with it.

“Yeah, but punk is the opposite of pop! Pop is committee designed and auto-tuned, an easy shill for dumb masses. Punk is anti-authority and anti-establishment and ne’er shall punk and pop mix!”

Wrong.

You remember those Ramones fellas you were lording over Green Day a few paragraphs back? You know who they were trying to imitate? The fucking Beach Boys, a.k.a. the 1960’s version of NSYNC. Also, Sex Pistols was cobbled together from some regulars at a clothing shop in London as an ersatz marketing shill (the talentless Sid Vicious was only in the band because their manager thought he would appeal to the hardcore scene). Also, everyone from Black Sabbath is devoutly Christian, Pink Floyd never did drugs, Lars Ulrich shops at Armani, and Santa Claus isn’t real.

I’m sorry guys, but at some point all music is storytelling. And that means adopting different characters once in a while. Does that mean these people aren’t talented, or that their music is somehow fake? Of course not. Tom Waits doesn’t actually hang out at junkyards drinking moonshine and shooting craps with hobos. But when we see him onstage, when we hear his drunken caterwauling, we believe him. Like every great artist before him, Tom Waits uses lies to tell us deeper truths.

Usually moonshine-related ones.

Punk has always been DIY theater. Green Day’s just a really good act.

So let’s get to the biggest issue here, the issue of talent. Is Green Day the most talented band ever? Once again, no, and once again, they don’t have to be. But I think there’s more going on with Green Day in the music department than some people appreciate. Mike Dirnt, for instance, is a fantastic bassist. Very much kin of Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament or Nirvana’s Krist Novaselic, Dirnt’s style is rhythmic and heavy, sometimes adopting the role of rhythm guitar. His tone is fantastic, his rhythm is perfect, and his basslines are some of the best ever written. Seriously, aspiring guitarists learn “Smoke on the Water” and aspiring bassists learn “Longview”. That’s got to be worth something.

I’ll admit, Tre Cool’s drumming gets same-y after the billionth cymbal crash and Billy Joe’s got four or five power chord progressions he’s really, really fond of, but I still think Green Day deserves more credit than they get as musicians. And Billy Joe’s lyrics are stunning. Maybe you’re not fifteen anymore and angst isn’t your thing, but “Minority” took the sneer of every mall goth in America and made it anthemic. Every angry kid wants to be an American Idiot. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Give Green Day some credit. You don’t have to like them, but if you’re going to criticize, at least criticize fairly. Being big, silly and listenable doesn’t make it bad. Sometimes things are popular because they’re good.

Sometimes.

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