Green Day

Lookout! Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back when Green Day's Dookie album was the next big thing that everyone was talking about, people were fawning over this work and treating it like it was the most exciting thing to happen to music since Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire. The thing is that many people didn't realize that Billie Joe Armstrong and crew had been doing this for some time, and had two independent albums to their credit - a fact that shocked some people when the song "2,000 Light Years Away" made it onto The Jerky Boys soundtrack.

Kerplunk, Green Day's second album for Lookout!, a California-based punk label, is a much rawer, unpolished (and imperfect) version of Green Day, but it shows that their level of intensity has been just as high - and, for that matter, so has their songwriting and playing.

Recorded in 1991, Kerplunk is a picture of a band gearing up for success. An early version of their hit "Welcome To Paradise" is a prime example. Lyrically, it's the same as the hit version on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Dookie, though this version is much rawer and doesn't contain as many of the vocal harmonies. Still, listening to this version provides the listener with an interesting insight to Green Day; this is a band that knows they have something special, and are ever so close to breaking into the mainstream.

But Green Day also shows they hadn't abandoned their sense of humor at all. A pseudo-country song, "Dominated Love Slave," is evidence of that - and is possibly the only Green Day song that Mrs. Pierce can't stomach. (I, on the other hand, find it hilarious.) Likewise, a cover of The Who's "My Generation" (featuring Al Sobrante on drums - he plays on the final four tracks of Kerplunk) is treated both with reverence and their own brand of disrespect.

Musically, Green Day was just about to reach their level of excellence at their instruments. Bassist Mike Dirnt showed he could whip out some frantic notes on his four-string, but he wasn't quite there yet. Drummer Tre Cool was there - and maybe a little better of a production job would have helped his case. (Not that Andy Ernst and the band did a terrible job, for it is quite listenable - but it's not as crisp as I would have liked it. Maybe a little more bass?) Armstrong's guitar playing is incredbily strong - his power chords and occasional solos cut through the sound like a chainsaw through a dead tree. I should note that the singing is also just an inch below top-notch - this band's vocal harmonies have always impressed me.

The only tentative thing about Green Day's playing at this point was that it didn't seem like they knew how to handle slower songs. Every once in a while, their timing is thrown off just a hair, though they always recover quite well. Listen to the space in between the chorus and the second verse of "Christie Road" - the drums are far too slow in this passage.

But in the end, Kerplunk isn't about vocal harmonies or keeping in syncopation, it's about speedfreak, head-smashing punk. Songs like "One Of My Lies," "Android" and "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield" demonstrate the sheer power and energy that Green Day had, and still have to this day. This was a band that showed their hunger for success - and it paid off.

Kerplunk is definitely worth investing in, especially if you are a big fan of Dookie. If you've just gotten into Green Day on the strength of the recent hit "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)", I'd suggest waiting until you really know what this band is about.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lookout! Records, and is used for informational purposes only.