20 Years On: A Look Back at Green Day’s “Dookie”
Precisely 20 years ago today, Green Day did more than just emerge from the underground with their first major label album Dookie, they catapulted toward mainstream acceptance at a speed reserved for pop stars with backup dancers and someone nicknamed “Hootie.”
Admittedly, I wasn’t one of those millions of kids waving the green flag from the get-go. I didn’t rail against the band: I just hadn’t found my inner punk yet. And while the debate still rages on about whether Green Day is or isn’t punk, in retrospect, what was put forth on Dookie was bold, abrasive, funny, sensitive, clever, and energetic enough to be punk. Two decades on, there’s really no need to argue this point anymore.
Whether it’s isolation (“She”); masturbation (“Longview”); being bat-shit crazy (“Basket Case”); winding up lost in a relationship (“When I Come Around”); or opting out of society’s conventions (“Burnout”), with Dookie, Green Day managed to provide translation for the brains of the young. The fact that the guys could develop maliciously addictive melodies and aggressive instrumentation in addition to that, only sped up the bond between band and audience.
Then there’s Armstrong forcefully introducing himself by managing to sing at you and sing to you at the same time. Depending on your mood, depends on how you take his delivery. Either way, you’re getting it and you’re getting it good.
Listening to it now, I wonder where the hell I was in 1994. Perhaps I was listening to Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, The Cranberries, and R.E.M. All of those are choices I don’t regret, but what I do regret is not experiencing the charge of Dookie at a younger age. Now when I push it through my ears, I can’t help but wonder how different my perspective on life could’ve been as a teenager. Perhaps I would’ve fought back more; been more okay with my outcast status; better understood that girls can be weird; and that everything can’t be taken at face value. Maybe I would’ve questioned certain conventions with much more conviction.
As a piece of work though, Dookie is an unstoppable force. Every time it turns up on my radio dial the volume switch is pushed to its limit. Whenever I open it on my iPod I risk the safety of my headphones. After purchasing a ticket to see them on yet another tour, I still stand within the crowd waiting for that undeniable bass line intro of “She,” and the creep-tastic drum-thumping lead-in on “Longview.” When “Burnout” makes a surprise appearance in the set almost two decades later, there’s a guarantee in place that my neck won’t quite feel the same for a few days.
With Dookie, Green Day has been able to give multiple generations something that’ll always be there for them. Great people in life come and go, but a great album that has the power to stir up this much emotion in so many millions of people never dies.
Dookie is more than just nostalgia – it’s a bonafide classic. Maybe even a touchstone.