Twenty years ago today, on February 1, 1994, Green Day’s Dookie taught an entire generation that being a lazy masturbator could be an effective business plan, so long as you could play a sweet bass line, too. Everyone between the ages of 25 and 35 has a story about where they were when they listened to “Burnout” for the first time, about dying their hair blue, about convincing your mom that haha, good one, but “Dookie isn’t crap”; it’s a generation-defining album, and one that a lot of people love to sh*t on.
Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool have given our great hurtling orb two decades of stultifying pop-punk simulacra. Two decades of copies of their copy without an original, of emo rocker boys who imagined themselves the first to bend gender norms, to bend notes, to feel feelings, to perform punkness without so much as a courtesy safety pin through their flesh. F*ck Green Day. F*ck their music. F*ck their look. F*ck what they have wrought, intended and otherwise…
People have a tendency to look back at the popular music of the generation that preceded them and say that it was somehow harder, truer, realer: For my generation, that’s the early waves of punk. We looked at that shit and made Joe Strummer a king—a decision that I will still capriciously stand by—and many of us accepted Green Day’s catchy hooky simulacrum as our own generation’s homage, our approximation, and our innovation. For the most recent generation, the one that now consumes Demi Lovato and Bruno Mars, their tributary of throwback authenticity springs forth, in part, from Green Day and eddies along through Fall Out Boy. It is a vicious cycle. It must stop. (Via)
That’s a weird logic jump, that somehow Green Day trying to sound like the Ramones is why Bruno Mars is a watered-down soul singer? Mentioning Dookie often results in arguments among people who should know better because it’s a high-selling pop punk album with killer hooks, and people love to argue about punk’s authenticity. It’s exhausting. Especially the part where Green Day’s to blame for the softening of punk, “without so much as a courtesy safety pin through their flesh.” But what about, say, Billy Idol, who channeled everything interesting into Generation X then SOLD OUT as a solo act, years before 39/Smooth? “Rebel Yell” tried to convince us it was punk; at least Dookie had the courtesy of sneering with sincerity.
Dookie was also an important starting point toward the “good stuff.” I’m sure I would have eventually found the Clash, Buzzcocks, Minor Threat, the Misfits, the Damned, etc. without Green Day’s help, but they helped speed the process along. It was the 1990s version of Netflix Recommendations: “If you like Dookie, you might also enjoy Under the Big Black Sun.” And I did! A seven-year-old isn’t ready to jump straight into Zen Arcade; they need something to soften the blow. Dookie did exactly that. It’s not the GREATEST album (hell, it’s not even Green Day’s best — that would be Insomniac, their In Utero), but it led to great things for its many millions of listeners. It also led to many terrible things, like Sum 41, but that’s true of pretty much any poplar band — I’m sure there’s a musical lineage and inspiration that can be traced from Chuck Berry to the Baha Men, but that doesn’t make Chuck Berry HISTORY’S GREATEST MONSTER.
You can hate Green Day all you want for the Hot Topicification for the world, for the $$$ of the Vans Warped Tour, for Alien Ant Farm, but that’s like blaming the Beatles for $20 Ticketmaster service fees. Dookie isn’t the worst (or best!) thing ever; it’s just…Dookie, and that’s good enough for this lazy masturbator.