Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #10: Green Day- Kerplunk

Posted: July 4, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

So this pick is from one of the biggest rock bands in the world! I’m talking of course about the band that went from East bay to Broadway (Thanks GrimgrinningChris): Green Day! The band that gave us rock operas like American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown and hits like “Basket Case” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and of course three albums in one year, can be shortened down to one 30 minutes long album! The band that every punk kid from the 90s either had Dookie change their lives or hated because it sold out their precious scene to the evil mainstream culture. I’d like to say that Dookie is the Green day album with the best production and the best stand alone songs (Basket case? Sassafrass roots? Having a blast? Come on!), but it also has lots of filler in my opinion; even Insomniac has less filler and that album has the borefest “Brain Stew” on it. The first Green day album I bought was Nimrod and I pretty much liked it and I really liked the song “Uptight”. This was the time I had started to play guitar so I went to the library to loan their notebooks. Once I saw a notebook of an album I hadn’t even heard of that wasn’t in the stores: Kerplunk it said. It did have “Welcome to paradise” on it, but I had never heard of any of the other songs. When I was 13 I went to Aberdeen and to one of my favorite record stores I’ve ever been to and saw Kerplunk there and asked to listen to it….frankly, I couldn’t choose another Green day album for this column and I can’t think of another album that fits classic pop punk picks better (except Love songs for the retarded, which I’ve already mentioned).

Kerplunk was released on January 17 1992 on Lookout! records and distributed through Epitaph in Europe. Now Warner brothers and Reprise are in charge of this wonderful album and the greedy moneyfolks have a hand on this gold mine too. The album cover is very minimalistic and with very few colors, except for, of course, green. And on it is a girl with a gun wearing a t-shirt with a flower on it. The minimalism and almost childishness of the album cover was something that made me really into it at 13 and I still think it describes the album to some degree, even if the teenagers on this record created some of the finest and even some of the most complex songwriting I can think of.


1. “2000 light years away”: So back to the record shop in Aberdeen! I was putting on an album by a band I thought I had heard basically anything from! And it was different, the production seemed really low-fi and the guitars and vocals sounded kind of dirty. That intro was one of the greatest things I had ever heard and I stood there in record shop feeling like I had to jump around, this wasn’t the green day that everyone else was listening to, this was MY Green day! To this day this song always brings a special feeling to me. It was co-written with among others Jesse Michaels for a band they were supposed to start together. The song describes that feeling when you are so far away from someone and the more you think about them the further away they seem and the closer they seem at the same time.

2. “One for the Razorbacks”: Back in the day I saw this song as that pretty good song that comes after “2000 light years away”, but lately I’ve started to realize that it’s one of their most underrated tracks. With its slow guitar intro, great melody and Billie Joe’s sweet singing and of course Mike Dirnt’s back up vocals. The song is about a girl named Juliet who is doubtful about her love and has the great line “Look this direction, I know it’s not perfection, it’s just me…I want to bring you up again now”.

3. “Welcome to Paradise”: The song that was re-recorded for Dookie and in my opinion it never was the same as the Kerplunk version. Most of it is identical on Dookie and it has a better production, but there’s way more charm in the original and the most different part is the bridge. This version sounds like a psychedelic 60’s song in the bridge, with a loud tambourine. The Dookie version sounds more like a metal song. I might be very alone with this opinion. The song is about moving into a squatter neighborhood and hearing gunshots and the fear that comes with living on your own. It’s a song everyone can relate to. Obviously not the fear of living in a dangerous neighborhood, but leaving your parents’ house and feeling on your own is something most people go through one time. The song explains that what is a slum to someone is paradise to others; we hear this in in the protagonist changing their whining to laughing.

4. “Christie Road”: This was maybe the song that hit me first as my favorite song on the album. The melody is wonderful and Billie Joe’s voice just sounds so believable. The song reflects on boredom and having a place to go. Christie road was a place that the members of the band would go to smoke pot. The lyrics are strangely poetic. Like I said, the song is about having a place to go. And the protagonist telling their mother to stay away of his way and that he’s found a home in Christie road makes it seem like a continuation of “Welcome to paradise”. Artist Cristy Road, who made the album cover of the My Brain Hurts reissue among others, took her name from this song.

5. “Private Ale”: A great tune and a song that sounds like it could’ve been on their first album 39 Smooth or one of their first 7 inches. The song is about unrequited love and jealousy. The song is about someone walking by their crush‘s house and wondering if they are with their new lover and feeling like your life is going nowhere with no prospects and not caring about it. A classic pop punk song!

6. “Dominated Love Slave”: A lot of people seem to be displeased about this masochistic little love song. I think it’s a fun little country song with a groovy bass line! And it’s funny to hear Tré sing. He also wrote the song! It actually took me years to get that it was not Billie Joe.

7. “One of my Lies”: After “Dominated Love Slave”; “One of my Lies” couldn’t be more different. This is Billie Joe at maybe his most philosophical on this record. It’s a song about questioning your own worldview and questioning others’ worldview, that even a person who has lived long is just as oblivious to death as him. The song discusses immorality, religion and the establishment and states that people get lost in vicious circles of similar thinking and traditions that blinds people from individual thought. I’m pretty sure the Darkness was inspired by this when they wrote “I believe in a thing called love”. The song also established Green day as a Pothead band with the line “all I wanted to was great real high”, something they had been singing about since their eponymous song; “Green day”. The song also continues the child and mother relationship with the mother telling the child to pray and her mother telling her the same.

8. “80”: A great track with nice little intro and great backup vocals from Mike Dirnt in the choruses. The song is about Billie Joe’s now wife Adie because her name is a homonym with the number eighty. What is interesting about the song is that the love he has in the song is only giving him anxiety and distress and he talks to himself and gets drunk and throws up. It’s only the bridge he admits that it actually makes him feel good and that he enjoys himself and wants 80 to take him away.

9. “Android”: A song that strangely is almost as philosophical as “One of my lies”. This song used to make me laugh as a kid; it made me imagine an old man walking around in woman shoes. This is the same thing the character in the song does; he sees an old man in woman shoes and thinks he is crazy. However, the song really makes you think about all those weird people who you only see from the outside and you don’t know what story is being hidden behind their weird facade. The protagonist later starts to identify with the old man and that he might end up just like him in a few years or even worse he might not even get to live that long. It also terrifies him that the old man might have been just like him when he was young. This song also has a bong rip in it. “Android” has one of my favorite lines in a song ever: “It seems so frightening/ Time passes by like lightning/ Before you know it you’re struck down”

10. “No One Knows”: Along with “Basket case” this has probably been my favorite Green day song since I was about 14. To me it’s a perfect song. The song continues the accepting your own ignorance theme of “One of my lies” and Operation ivy’s “Knowledge” (which Green day covered on their “Slappy” 7 inch). The song has a fantastic bass intro and one of the best choruses ever written, in my humble opinion. The song touches on having friends who grow up and get boring and feeling like you still have a few years left of having fun. The last chorus even tops the others with the added vocals with new lyrics about how we soak up knowledge to fill up space, which kind of reminds me of Coleridge’s “The rime of the Ancient mariner”. One of the most depressing things I can think of is how many records Green day have sold, how many people listen to them on a daily basis, and how few of them who has probably heard this song. I don’t think they have ever even played it live.

11. “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?”: The title is a reference to the main character in J.D’s Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The song is about laziness and a dude who cannot find motivation to do the things he wants to do in life, something that we later find in songs like “Longview” and “Burnout”. It has the brilliant lyrics: “he makes a plan to take a stand, but always end up sitting”. I think the Catcher reference is more of a way to show the protagonist couldn’t give a shit about literature rather than identification with the character (but I could be wrong). Screeching weasel did a song called “I wrote Holden Caulfield”, on their How to make enemies and irritate people album, that had Mike Dirnt on bass, which is more based on Holden Caulfield as a character and shows how you can identify with literary characters to know you’re not alone in the world and how there’s always someone who feels the same way, while the Shy guys’ “J.D Salinger wrote Holden Caulfield” says the opposite and denies Weasel’s feeling of collective loneliness and that we are all alone no matter if we try to identify with literary characters. Punch Buggy Blue had a song called ” I dont get it, no one wrote Holden caufield…. they wrote The Catcher in the Rye”.

12. “Words I Might Have Ate”: The first line of this song always makes me think of the Go Go’s “Vacation” even if they actually aren’t that similar. Another of my favorite Green day songs, it just has a very light mood to it. The intro sounds a lot like a Who song, and the style of the song seems very inspired by early British invasion stuff like The Kinks, the Rolling stones and of course The Beatles. It just has a very catchy melody with acoustic guitar, even if it’s about heartache and breakups and the protagonist asking “WHY?”. To me this is the song that really makes Kerplunk a way better album than Dookie. This isn’t tough guy music, this is soft pop music, and I like that!


Sadly, I think this an album that will never get the recognition it deserves and few songs from the album except “Welcome to paradise” will be played live nowadays, and albums like American idiot and Uno! get played in malls across the world. Still, this album is something I can have to prove to myself what great of a band Green day really is. It has genres from British invasion influenced songs to punk rock, to pop punk to country. And lyrics about masochism to pot smoking, to love and there is even some Holden Caulfield! Speaking of Holden Caulfield, the next album up is Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by the Shy Guys.



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