Thursday, June 17, 2010

Albums2010 #11: Dookie

Along with The Offspring and Rancid, Green Day emerged in the early to mid-90s to help spearhead a punk revival that would eventually lead me back down the well-trodden paths of history to bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam and The Ramones. Dookie, I remember as being one of the very first cassettes I ever purchased- and yes, I guess that makes me old as dirt, buying cassettes and not CDs, but oddly enough I'm OK with that.

Back then, we were at 1621 Spruce Ct. and on summer days when we were old enough, we'd sneak through someone's backyard, cross Sycamore St. and hey presto, we'd be at the Mall. Back in those days, the Old Capitol Mall was the bad-ass mall and Sycamore was the one we knew best. The arcade (Tilt) held the allure of getting tickets so we could get large furry animals we'd never use- the old movie theater (Cinema I and II) was where I saw every bad-ass Disney movie that came out in my youth (the 2D ones- that magical animated titans of the early 90s box office.) Waldenbooks (now deceased) was my first book store and Sam Goody (also now gone, replaced with a Hallmark) was my first music store. And all the cassettes were in those weird looking racks along the east side of the store and you'd have to go through painfully, one by one, just to find the exact cassette you were looking for.

And Dookie was one of my first... and it's not hard to see why. There was a period in the mid-90s when this album dominated the radio. Songs like 'Basket Case', 'Welcome To Paradise' and 'When I Come Around' were staples of Top 40 radio when I was growing up. And 'Longview' sticks out in my mind as the first song I ever called a radio station to actually request to listen too. It took me forever to figure out what it was called, and to this day, I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps I didn't have the cassette yet, but I'd wait patiently for it to be played on the radio and hope like crazy they'd say the title of the song afterwards- and when I figured it out, it was awesome. Because I picked up the phone, called the radio station (Q103, of course) and requested it. And even better: they played it!

At the time, I don't think I quite realized that 'Longview' was principally about being too bored to do anything but masturbate, but I picked up on that rather quickly. As an album, Dookie was an incredible commercial success as Green Day's major label debut and remains their only album ever to go Diamond. Of course, the more mainstream sound on the album lead to charges from the more hardcore members of the punk community that the band had 'sold-out' and to be fair, Dookie's punk is radio-friendly and mainstream and while the band's lyrics throughout the album could be seen as a statement about the apathy many young people felt (and still feel) growing up in the 90s, it's no question that this isn't your Dad's punk album.

But that doesn't bother me at all, personally. I have to credit this album for leading me to explore punk as a whole. Without this album, I would have never found the Sex Pistols, Ramones or The Clash. I'd never have stumbled upon Rancid and I wouldn't love punk music as much as I do today. While I suppose if you're being a purist about it, then yeah, Green Day did sellout to produce a radio friendly, more pop album- yet at the same time, this album helped to mainstream punk to a lot of people that would never have even heard it otherwise and probably won punk more friends and fans than it lost. I know that's what it did for me. So thumbs up to Green Day for that.

Overall: It's the album that introduced me to punk, of course I love it. But it's also an amazing album- one of the all-time best, if certainly not one of the top 5 albums of the 90s. Songs like 'Welcome To Paradise', 'Longview' and 'Basket Case' are total classics and Dookie deserves a place not only on this list, but in the punk pantheon for the simple reason that it opened up punk to a lot of people that had never heard it before. Which makes this album important.

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