Does anyone remember Kurt Cobain’s suicide note? It finished with a quote from a Neil Young song: “It’s better to burn out than fade away”. Perhaps Green Day weren’t paying much attention in ’94, or perhaps they don’t own any Neil Young records. In any case, they have thoroughly failed to learn the lesson that once something is no longer relevant – once it has jumped the shark – it has no chance of regaining its lost prestige.
The honest truth is that Green Day have not been relevant, interesting or any good since American Idiot, a record that came out in 2004 (a fact which should make all of you feel old). Incidentally, that record was considered something of a career revival for the snot-nosed punk band that had been grinding out albums like Nimrod and Insomniac, both entirely devoid of vim or vigour. The follow up to American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, was both an artistic and creative disaster, spawning only one vaguely hummable single.
In response to lukewarm popular and critical reception, Green Day decided to create a trilogy of albums, Uno, Dos and Tre. These are supposedly the result of a purple patch, where the band became incredibly prolific and created a whole load of songs which Billie Joe Armstrong (increasing becoming the embarrassing uncle of alternative rock) reckons are some of the best they’ve ever written.
He can dream on. The entire thing feels insubstantial, and poorly conceived. If they had enough material for three albums, it was not the result of an incredible period of inspiration, but poor quality control. The lyrics, whilst never historically Green Day’s strong suit, are quite laughable. For example, “I gotta know if you’re the one that got away / even though it was never meant to be” sounds less like Green Day and more like Kelly Clarkson or some equally bland popstar.
Billie Joe’s adenoidal whine fails to convey any emotion or enthusiasm (as if it ever did) and the instrumentation just batters away in the background. However, whilst in the past we may have marvelled at Tre Cool’s drumming skills or whatever it is that Mike Dirnt actually does, the musicianship has been toned down in the mix and seems to be rather ineffectual. The message is clear – they’re all about BJA now.
Even some hysterical attempts to update their schtick with a “dance” number (‘Kill The DJ’, which pales in comparison to MCR’s ‘Planetary (GO!)’) and some rap (no, really) on ‘Nightlife’ cannot resuscitate the lost cause that is Green Day’s career. It’s a pity they took the title Dookie for a far better album. It would be far more accurately applied here.