Before Sum 41 and ‘Hooray For Boobies’, before every kid on every street corner sported a brand new skateboard and a wallet-chain heavy enough to carve a groove in the pavement, there was Green Day – three SoCal punk rockers who made like Doctor Faustus and sold their souls to the major label Satan for fame and fortune. Back in 1994, this was still an untested phenomenon: could the amphetamine fizz of punk rock make it in a marketplace captivated by the heroin-twisted roar of grunge?
Twenty three million records down the line, it seems ridiculous that we even had to ask the question. But it’s never been work, exactly, for Green Day. It’s been fun. There have been, as this B-sides compilation attests, ‘Shenanigans’. And there are landfills in the desert plains of New Mexico set aside for unsold copies of ‘rarities’ like this.
Happily, Green Day sidestep such a fate by turning out 30 toned minutes of, erm, Green Day. No acoustic stinkers. No Live And Unrehearsed At K-ROQ radio sessions. No ropy early demos. No remixes. Just Green Day, playing solid, dependable, familiar idiot-savant punk-rock. There is a little filler here: ‘Espionage’, a spoof on spy movie scores, plucked from the ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me’ soundtrack where it should have remained, and an unspectacular cover of The Ramones‘ ‘Outsider’ that reveals Green Day to be at their best touting the proficient three-chord West Coast skate-punk design, not its smacky two-chord New York equivalent.
Luckily, high points are legion. The nervous-breakdown shiver of ‘Desensitized’ rocks out like the best stuff on the underrated ‘Insomniac’, while ‘Don’t Wanna Fall In Love’ is a frothing caffeine overload that tears by in 90 feverish seconds. A curious cover of The Kinks‘ ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ works, just about. And the one new song included here, ‘Ha Ha You’re Dead’, proves Green Day, broadly, still have it: a chugging playground nose-thumbing that finds these three fathers stubbornly refusing to grow up.
Does that graffiti-streaked cover suggest the writing’s on the wall? Let’s hope not. Invariably, retrospectives have the effect of stuffing and mounting their subject. But a world in which Green Day don’t exist and Blink 182 do would be an injust one indeed.