Dancing to my mailbox in excitement, I reached in and pulled out The History of Green Day: Suburbia Bomb, the new Green Day documentary DVD. I expected early live footage, snippets of the band’s early performances perhaps, and some excellent interviews with the band. Unfortunately Suburbia Bomb, in my opinion, well, bombed.
For hardcore Green Day fans, some of the information in the DVD may be of interest. For those looking for a showier DVD having more to do with music, than history, well this is not for them. The documentary is about an hour in length and features interviews with those who witnessed the East Bay, Calif. group’s rise to stardom. The DVD provides a historical background for the personal and professional contributions to the idea that was Green Day. Commentary includes that from Jesse Michaels of the band Operation Ivy, Jaan Whelsizki, rock journalist, “Diamond Dave,” various Berkeley radio DJs and Winston Smith, the band’s album cover artist.
The bare-bones documentary features many pictures of the band in formation in 1987 playing at the famous 924 Gilman Street punk club in Berkeley. Then, Green Day was known as Sweet Children. Commentators noted how the band didn’t look like a punk band or play songs like a traditional punk band. They were different, good songwriters and melodic. The history then continues through their start at Lookout! Records, with the releases of 39 Smooth and then Kerplunk on Reprise Records, and then follows them to Dookie, the first taste of their national and international consumer success. After that the film dwindles down and kind of speeds through post-Dookie coverage and includes nothing about the wildly masterful American Idiot, which was released before this documentary.
The filmmakers note how Green Day caused a pivot in the modern music scene by making alternative and punk rock “safe” again for the masses. MTV played a huge role in the band’s success by airing “Longview” and “Basketcase”. And through all the hype, the band refused to let themselves be taken seriously, causing a media frenzy for starting a mud fight at Woodstock II. Unfortunately Gilman Street, where they took off, where their original fan base existed, branded them “sell outs”, and the band had to accept the disloyalty and back off. Yet, Green Day’s influence reverberated through the music scene, allowing other “happier”-sounding bands to come through and lighten things up in the politically-drowned locale. But the band never abandoned their hometown, and the commentators all shared experiences of seeing them at the post office or supermarket with their families.
Suburbia Bomb, as a whole, disappointed me. I appreciated the historical insight and value of the story, but hoped for at least original Green Day music in the film. Instead I saw two repeated interviews with the band and a shoddy job of their post-emergence days. It was a good attempt, but not complete throughout. It’s a DVD for those who enjoy interviews of people who knew Green Day in retrospect, but lacks in any actual show of music.