How many times in your life have you have loathed that one guy just because you “knew” he was an utter tool (not like you ever bothered to actually get to know him)? “Chump” is all about that sort of knee-jerk irrational prejudice. Backed by a distorted ringing guitar that recalls 1980s underground rockers Hüsker Dü (one of Green Day’s biggest acknowledged influences), Billie Joe Armstrong kicks off the third track on Dookie by sneering “I don’t know you but I think I hate you” and going on from there.
In the song, Armstrong takes the perspective of someone who knows he utterly hates another person before he has even met them. The character’s disdain towards the subject of his woe is the sort of all-consuming preoccupation that tends to inhabit adolescent lives, best evoked by the couplet “You’re the cloud hanging out over my head / Hail comes crashing down welting my face”. Armstrong’s character is perfectly fine in laying blame for all his misery at the other person’s feet, but notes “It seems strange that you’ve become my biggest enemy / Even though I’ve never even seen your face”. He’s quick with the insults (“Magic man, egocentric plastic man”) but short of actual reasons. In fact, all he has is a series of “maybes” that he lists off in the chorus, describing the whole situation as “A circumstance that doesn’t make much sense”, finally conceding “maybe I’m just dumb”. It’s the song’s final cry of “I’m a chump!” that reveals who’s really the jerk in this story.
“Chump” essentially ends at the 1:25 mark. At that point, the band segues into a two-chord instrumental jam that lasts about a minute. It’s rather simple: Armstrong bashes out a few chords over Mike Dirnt’s ambling bassline, progressively shortening the number of rests between beats until the music becomes a flurry of guitar strumming and drum rolls. Let’s not forget that these guys are punk rockers; they know how to craft an engaging musical section with the barest essentials. And sometimes just smashing the hell out of instruments in the right fashion is all that’s needed. After the chaos subsides, a shuffling drumbeat emerges that leads into the next track and the first of Dookie’s many hit singles…
// Notes from the Road
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