A few weeks ago, I was having a music conversation with the teenage son of a friend of mine. This teenager is at that wonderful time of his life when his concrete music tastes are just beginning to harden, but with plenty of time left to manipulate and leave all sorts of impressions in the still smushy concrete of his aesthetic tastes. His dad does a good job of steering him away from the Nicklebacks of the musical world, but there’s a point where a dad is still a dad and a son needs to begin to assert his own manhood distinct from the old man. This is where my bad influence comes in. I’ve introduced him (to be honest, the kid does a great job of finding great bands on his own) to the early 90’s Seattle grunge bands; much to his dad’s chagrin, who, being a couple of years older than me, loves early, first-wave hair metal – think Quiet Riot and Ratt (the “good” stuff?). Anyway, during this most recent conversation, the teenage son asked me about Green Day. I replied, “That’s great, as long as you go the right direction from there.” For the record, the right direction is back towards the Ramones and The Sex Pistols, through bands like Hüsker Dü and the Dead Kennedys. The “right direction” also implies a bad direction. The “bad direction” would be any direction that leads to Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy, and (please help us!) Avril Lavigne.
My warning about Green Day being a gateway to a very bad direction was not without warrant. Over the years, I have met way too many people who, while recounting their favorite bands, will rattle off a list of late ‘90s and early ‘00s punk-pop bands with Green Day shoehorned in at some point. To be fair, that’s not necessarily Green Day’s fault, although their old comrades from Gilman Street would disagree. On the flip side, it’s true that many other people have also discovered bands like Black Flag and NOFX because of Kerplunk and Dookie. I know that I did. During 1994, when I first heard Green Day, my love affair with Seattle grunge was still being dictated by whatever Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden songs the local top-forty station deigned to play. Thankfully, one of my older co-workers began to introduce me to bands like Mudhoney and the Meat Puppets (the Meat Puppets get a shit-ton of mentions in my reviews; the band should put me on their payroll). This co-worker, when I first began to listen to Green Day, also helped steer me in the right direction. So, Green Day, besides the fact that I like much of the band’s music, has a seminal place in the formation of my musical preferences.
Demolicious, the band’s latest release, is a collection of demos from 2012’s “trilogy” albums. If you’re not familiar with the “trilogy” albums, in late 2012, Green Day released three albums titled, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!. The first album ¡Uno! (obviously the first album) was released in September of 2012 with the other two albums released in November and December of that year. Regardless of Billie Joe Armstrong’s posturing that the trilogy would contain a rougher garage-rock sound with some dance vibe tracks mixed in, the albums were a welcome and somewhat surprising return to the straight up power-pop/punk that had earned Green Day legions of fans prior to the bloated attempts at rock-operas of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown;two albums that hard-core Green Day fans long-sufferingly rolled their eyes at as their Girl Scout cookie hookup embraced the now popular top-40 radio band. So, although the trilogy was bloated in a different direction (way too many filler songs), many of the band’s fans who actually remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and that Green Day played Lollapalooza in 1994 breathed a hesitant sigh of relief(?) that, regardless of the middle-aged hubris of the trilogy, maybe Green Day was signaling a return to what they do best. And this is where Demolicious arrives and sweeps the deck clean. Demolicious is the album that Green Day should have released in 2012.
Although billed as demo tracks, I have had an incredibly hard time discerning any musical difference. The tracks aren’t as mastered as their squeaky, radio-ready clones on the trilogy albums, but that’s a plus – a nod to Green Day’s original DIY ethos; a possibly unwitting nod, but I’m choosing to give the band the benefit of the doubt and shelve the CD next to my CDs from This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. The occasional “Fuck yeah!” from Armstrong along with the exuberant declamations from the band at many of the track’s conclusions tip the listener off that this is an album of demos, I guess. I don’t mean “I guess” in a bad way, I simply believe that this album is recorded the way all Green Day albums should be – high energy, slightly rough in the mastering, and the band vocally expressing their glee at kicking ass.
Demolicious contains one new song among the eighteen tracks – “State of Shock.” Now, “State of Shock” is probably not going to be played at Green Day’s sadly inevitable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction alongside Nine Inch Nails and, if there is any justice in the world, Deep Purple (I don’t even like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to write any of that), but the song is a solid addition to Green Day’s oeuvre. With catchy guitar hooks, slightly over the top cheap poetry, and Armstrong at his whiney, California punk vocalist best, the song fits nicely in most people’s image of Green Day.
I’m not going to deconstruct Demolicious track by track, it is a Green Day album for fucks sake, but “Oh Love” is a good demonstration of the strength of the album over its predecessors ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, although, since Demolicious is an album of demos for the trilogy, “predecessor” may not be the correct term. If “predecessor” bothers you, substitute the word “progeny.” Regardless, for those who have an affinity for the power-pop/punk of Green Day from the band’s Dookie days, the somewhat roughly mastered version of “Oh Love” trumps the slick single iteration of itself from ¡Uno!.
Demolicious is a good album for Green Day fans. What makes it a good album for Green Day fans is that it contains eighteen tracks that are the direct descendants of the band’s songs that created the fans in the first place. And, as a much needed bonus, Green Day fans who resisted buying ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! now have no need to. Demolicious makes a fine substitute for those three albums. And, for those who are feeling the unfortunate and evil pull by bands like Simple Plan, Panic! At the Disco, and (please help us!) Paramore, Demolicious offers an excellent opportunity to turn those youngsters in the right direction. Get them on the right path with Demolicious now, and, in no time, those young punks will be arguing with their classmates about which one of the two self-titled Rancid albums is the best.
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