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Between the Grooves of Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ (1994)

Green Day's Dookie was the best rock album of 1994. Scores of critics admitted that, yes, this 14-track album full of speedy pop-punk tunes about panic attacks, boredom, and masturbation was quite catchy, but no one would've held it against them if they doubted that Dookie would have had staying power.

Dookie
Green Day
Reprise
1 February 1994

12. “Emenius Sleepus”

With the heroic phase of Dookie completed, we now enter the home stretch of the album’s tracklist. To be frank, there aren’t any hidden gems of sonic awesomeness lurking amongst the album’s concluding numbers. While none of the remaining tracks are duds, they’re all very workmanlike Green Day songs that don’t rise to the pop pinnacles of the album’s best material. Still, there are a few points of note worth highlighting in the tail end of the record’s runtime.

The most noteworthy aspect of “Emenius Sleepus” is that it’s the only song on Dookie featuring lyrics written by bassist Mike Dirnt. As opposed to chief lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong’s witty, brat-savant character studies, Dirnt’s words are less distinctive and more restrained. Essentially a lament about two friends who have grown apart, Dirnt’s words are light on details, leaving it to the listener fill in the particulars of what exactly went down on his or her own. Dirnt does express disgust at what has become of his former friend (“And now I think you’re sick / I wanna go home”), but his words are tinged with regret, particularly in the second verse lines “What have you done with all your time / And what went wrong”.

Unlike Armstrong’s material, “Emenius Sleepus” doesn’t contain any spite (either internally or externally directed). Instead, it’s the lyrical equivalent of shaking one’s head in disbelief at how an old acquaintance has changed. Dirnt’s muted, reflective approach to Green Day lyrics can also be found in his words for the band’s first post-Dookie hit “J.A.R.”, a song so good it’s baffling that it never appeared on a proper album release.

13 .”In the End”

Musically, “In the End” is dead simple. That’s because it’s played so fast. Green Day holds to the theory that the faster one plays, the simpler the arrangement has to be so the song doesn’t become a blurry mess amidst all that distortion. Played in a rollicking standard-issue punk rhythm, Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar sticks to two chords (A5 and G5 power chords) for the verses. Even the typically dynamic breakdown section has Armstrong plucking out as few notes as possible on his instrument. Not surprisingly, Armstrong’s vocals are the focus of attention in this brief burst of a song, issued in a staccato delivery that constantly arches upwards melodically. The most exciting part of the song is definitely the elongated “Sooooooo” Armstrong belts out to bridge his way from the chorus back to the verse, enhanced by the music dropping out behind him for a measure.

“In the End” is a resentful screed against a girl who’s chosen to go with the guy that’s “all brawn and no brains”, instead of the speaker. Inquiring, “How long will he last / Before he’s a creep in the past / And you’re alone once again?”, he pointedly asks if that’s really what she wants. Having figured out what he perceives to be her true colors, Armstrong references the best song on Dookie when he sings “I hope I won’t be there / In the end when you come around”.

As catharsis, “In the End” does the job (in fact, it’s a great song to put on when faced with rejection and you aren’t partial to more morose musical tastes), but it doesn’t possess the depth a track like “When I Come Around” does. Rare for a song on Dookie, it’s one-sided with no self-effacing reflection or critical introspection. Sure, it’s common to feel wronged when the object of one’s affection chooses someone else, but it’s not as captivating as the times when Armstrong delves into his angst to confront his own flaws. Still, it’s a testament to Armstrong’s knack for memorable phrases that he’s able to conjure up an image of why he detests his rival merely with the lines, “Someone to look good with / And light your cigarette.”

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