It’s been 30 years since Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt formed Sweet Children, the scuzzy teenage punk group that went on to become Green Day. An integral part of the DIY Gilman Street scene in Berkeley, California, they would forge the sound of pop-punk, which was to influence everyone from Blink-182 and Paramore to My Chemical Romance and those guys you used to watch at the local youth centre every second Tuesday with the tight black denim trousers and badly applied mascara. More importantly they would continue to be totally excellent in the process, melding riffs to catchy tunes and politics and making it all seem effortless.
Most excellent punk bands – The Clash, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, The Ramones, Fugazi, Operation Ivy – burned briefly but brightly. Green Day showed the world there was another way of going about things. Green Day proved that you didn’t have to go out in a blaze of fag-ends and empty beer cans to be legit and gain respect. They keep things fun, but importantly, keep things going – and, even more importantly – keep on making properly decent tunes – something they’ve been doing for well over quarter of a century now: see this week’s new single, ‘Bang Bang’, for proof.
As work ethics go, it’s pretty impressive. It’s an approach that has worked well for the trio. In the punk world it’s nigh on impossible to play a venue bigger than the Camden Underworld and not get the phrase ‘sell out’ lobbed in your direction, but Green Day have weathered the storm, and instead channeled their energy into doing genuinely interesting things: concept albums, musicals, secret shows, album trilogies, generally having a laugh and not taking this whole rock and roll thing too seriously. U2 they are not.
Green Day themselves would probably have gobbed in your face back in the late ’80s if you’d told them that they were going to be one of the biggest bands ever, playing arenas, stadiums and headlining festivals the world over. But the fact that they look like they still might phlegm in your face right is part of what makes them so damn great. Green Day don’t just still act like teenage boys, but frankly, they still look like them too. At 44 years old Billie Joe Armstrong is still a mess of black eyeliner and skew-whiff tie, a man who’s battled his demons and come out the other side with a bucketload of riffs and something important to say. Here’s to Green Day, the greatest living punk band we have.