By October 1997, Green Day had become massive mainstream rockstars. Gone were the days of the Gilman Street club shows, the massive success of 1994’s Dookie catapulting them into the world sold-out arena tours and award shows that would only grow exponentially a decade later with American Idiot. The period that existed between Dookie and American Idiot is a very interesting one that saw a band learning to exist and branch out within their new reality, while trying to stay true to the values upon which they were founded.
1997’s Nimrod, released twenty years ago this week, shows the broad spectrum of Green Day’s ability. Across eighteen tracks, the trio showcased their knack for gritty, harsh punk songs like “Take Back,” put alongside the ballad “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” that is still used in every photo montage to this day, two decades later.
Nimrod touches upon Green Day’s heaviest and their most experimental, with tracks complemented by flourishes of string and brass instruments that saw the band’s first steps outside the abilities of the core trio of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool and into a space where they could flesh out their sound to the band that we know today.
The record opens with “Nice Guys Finish Last,” a fitting way to pick up from where 1995’s Insomniac left off and jumping right into the “snot-core” punk aesthetic that the band had perfected on Dookie. From the first moment that Armstrong’s vocals land on top of the instrumental base, you can hear the anger in his sneer and all but picture him with a sardonic smile on his face in the vocal booth. The same can be said for “Hitchin’ A Ride,” which uses a very sparse, but powerful flare of strings during the bridge, before an explosion of sound and a roar from Armstrong launches the song into a thrashing close.
Nimrod has several highlights, but none perhaps as jarring as “Platypus (I Hate You),” which lands almost smack in the middle of the record and is a thrashing, angst-ridden two-and-a-half minutes that is one of the fastest songs in Green Day’s catalogue. The most striking part about this track comes toward the end, when Tré Cool’s tom-tom beat during the bridge underlines Armstrong’s searing vocal delivery of his most vulgar lyrics to date, which I will not write here.
In 1997, Nimrod saw Green Day trying to step outside their comfort zone, incorporating sounds of surf rock (“Last Ride In”), ska (“King For A Day”), and folk (“Walking Alone”), but also finessing the sound that made them famous in the first place. The album peaked at Number 10 on the Billboard 200 just under a month after its release, and “Good Riddance” was even used in the Seinfeld finale in 1998, which helped the album gain traction and achieve the double platinum status that it currently holds.
An oft-overlooked part of the Green Day catalogue, it’s an eighteen-song document of punk kids finding their footing in mainstream success, trying their best to leverage it into something sustainable. In doing such, they created a product that would further cement them in both the punk and mainstream world, and forever influence aspiring musicians around the globe.