Music

Nice Guys Finish Last: The Top 15 Green Day Songs

In honor of the impending arrival of Green Day's latest studio album ¡Uno! mere days from now, we have ranked the top 15 Green Day songs in as objective an order as we could muster.

No matter what anyone else says, or where my personal musical evolution leads me or which directions this band embarks upon, I will always be a Green Day fan. Ever since the junior high-aged me first saw a tape-recorded airing of the “Hitchin’ a Ride” video on MTV back in 1997, I knew this band was for me. Even now, after I have grown up and devoured so many records in so many styles and flavors, and as I accept that Green Day has turned out material I have on more than one occasion found less than palatable (21st Century Breakdown, anyone?), I still consider Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool to be solid instrumentalists, hook-savvy songwriters, and hilarious personalities. The group’s first four albums for Reprise soundtracked my adolescence, and in my adulthood I find the brash, adrenalized music and Armstrong’s cheeky (and vastly underrated) lyrics still resonate with me. For those reasons, the California pop punk trio will forever be my second-favorite group.

Sniff all you want at my fannish rhapsodizing, but before you immediately post “What good Green Day songs?” or question the trio’s punk credentials in the comments section without a second thought, I would hope you would at least read some of what I’m about to write. Beyond punk’s holy trinity of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and the Clash, Green Day is probably the most influential group the genre has ever witnessed, and certainly is its most well-known and best-selling act. For purists and detractors, that was (and remains) Green Day’s cardinal sin. As punk’s horizons became more limited and its dogma ever more rigid during the DIY 1980s, it was possible to view being on a major label and having your songs heard on commercial radio as a (supposed) affront to what the genre and movement stood for. To this day, no matter how much one points out that first-wave punk actively sought out major label muscle, or how many respected scene veterans hold a decent opinion of the band (Jello Biafra is a fan, for chrissakes), or how its working-class-bred members thoroughly paid their dues by touring the United States in junky vans and sleeping on floors as self-sufficient, barely-educated teenagers, or -- most basically -- how fantastic the music made by Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool is, there’s bound to be someone murmuring about how the group is lightweight, inauthentic, “not punk”.

Me, I’d place Green Day against any of punk’s heavyweight any day. Ramones, Clash, Pistols, Damned, Buzzcocks, Jam, Kennedys, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Religion -- bring ‘em. The band may not in singular moments be the finest purveyor of poppy three-chord punk (Buzzcocks will always be the most formidable of opponents for that claim), nor has it been the hardest, the fastest, or the most outrageous. It is on the balance, though, that Green Day proves its mettle. Its music is of a consistently solid caliber, its ability to turn any three or four chords into tuneful moshpit anthems -- laced with lyrics that are in turns caustic put-downs and impassioned romantic declarations you wish you could’ve written -- routinely remarkable. That consistency has meant that albums like Dookie, Nimrod, and American Idiot have impressive gold-to-filler ratios, with their strongest tracks being not only some of the finest punk ever spat out, but legitimate classics that have enlivened the past two decades of rock music, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

Alright, enough talk, more rock. In honor of the impending arrival of the band’s latest studio album ¡Uno! mere days from now, below I have ranked the top 15 Green Day songs in as objective an order as I could muster. Voice your objections or rave about your faves in the comments section. In any event, I hope you can leave this article with even a smidge of the admiration and love I carry for this trio of 40-year-old goofballs that named itself after a lame slang term for smoking pot. Trust me, they hate the name, too.

 
15. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
(Nimrod, 1997)

Yep, we’re starting with the introspective acoustic ballad here. No one ever refers to this song as “Good Riddance”, but being aware of the full title helps key otherwise unwitting listeners (read: adult contemporary DJs and whomever assembled the playlist for your high school senior prom) into the sentiment that shapes the number. As Armstrong has explained, it’s a song about breaking up but trying not to be bitter about it, and it’s that part-resentful/part-rueful lyrical sensibility he excels at. And while the strings in the bridge could have turned “Good Riddance” into pure schmaltz, their understated and slightly rickety nature (Armstrong instructed the performers to sound more “fiddley”) ensures that the track is never out of place when slotted alongside the band’s more boisterous fare.

 
14. “Church on Sunday”
(Warning, 2000)

Judging by the sales figures, not many people have heard Warning, Green Day’s pre-comeback dark horse record. It’s a shame, as the concerted palette-expanding undertaken on the album led to some gems worth digging for. Yet despite the acoustic guitars and the stylistic eclecticism, the top track on Warning is vintage Green Day: a roaring trio bashing out a Ramones-style bedrock of strummed barre chords and pounding beats as Armstrong lyrically flagellates himself for his shortcomings. For a supposed snot-nosed manchild, Armstrong is laudably mature here, as he mans up, acknowledges his screw-ups, and bears the responsibilities that come with being in a relationship (“If I promise to go to church on Sunday / Will you go with me on Friday night? / If you live with me I’ll die for you and this comprise”). The song is sold chiefly by Armstrong’s turn at the mic -- having stretched his partner’s patience once again, Armstrong admits that “‘Trust’ is a dirty word that comes / Only from such a liar”, yet the way he utters “But respect is something I will earn / If you have faith” radiates such sincere conviction that his word becomes incontrovertible.

 
13. “Going to Pasalacqua”
(39/Smooth, 1990)

There are those who believe that 39/Smooth is where Green Day burned brightest, and that it was never again as good as on that first album. The reality is that 39/Smooth is very much a formative record, the tentative and basic nature of its songs belying its authors’ inexperience and youth. The band’s debut does offer one enduring standout in the form of the soaring “Going to Pasalacqua”, an oldie that’s always welcome amongst the major label hits. The verses have a build-and-release dynamic that only ratchets up further anticipation inside the listener so when the chorus arrives and Billie Joe just belts heart out (“Would I last forever? / You and I together, hand and hand we run away / I'm in for nasty weather / But I'll take whatever you can give that comes my way”) it feels like he’s singing the most important words anyone could ever say. And in that moment, they are.

 
12. “Holiday”
(American Idiot, 2004)

Prior to American Idiot Green Day’s anger manifested itself as mean-spirited name-calling, never concerned with anyone more offending than the nearest hapless idiot. Following the instigation of President Bush’s War on Terror, Green Day nurtured a more blatant political consciousness which allowed for a refocusing of that anger towards less-juvenile purposes. Though “Holiday” is the band’s fiercest invective, it is also its most measured, tingeing its outrage with a palatable sadness and dismay at the state of post-9/11 America. When it’s time for the breakdown, Armstrong holds nothing back, grabbing a bullhorn and sarcastically admonishing the “president gasman” for what he has wrought.

 
11. “2000 Light Years Away”
(Kerplunk!, 1992)

Another heartsick tossing-and-turning lament, the leadoff track to Green Day’s sophomore album is two minutes-plus of unbridled teenage restlessness set to power chords. Joined for the first time by Tre Cool in the place of original drummer John Kiffmeyer, the band launches into the song with no hesitation whatsoever, bounding away as Armstrong cries “I sit alone in my bedroom / Staring at the wall / I’ve been up all damn night long / My pulse is beating / My love is yearning” as if the girl of his dreams could hear him across the vast distance (it must’ve worked, as he’s been married to that very girl since 1994). “2000 Light Years Away” annihilates anything found on 39/Smooth, and like Nirvana hooking up with Dave Grohl before conquering the world with Nevermind, it’s persuasive proof of how the right combination of players can dramatically alter a band’s chemistry for the better.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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