Why have a top 10 when you can have one more? Here are the 11 best songs by the kings of pop-punk
Over the course of their career – a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, delivered 14 studio albums, seen them sell more than 75 million records and establish themselves as one of the greatest live bands of all time – Green Day have taken pop-punk into the stratosphere.
As the trio return with their 14th studio album, Saviors, and prepare for another gigantic world tour, it’s high time we looked back at the legacy of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre’ Cool to run down their finest moments. It was tough to get to just 11, but we’ve given it our best shot…
11. ‘99 Revolutions’
After conquering the world with back-to-back concept albums American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day promised they’d return with something a little closer to their roots. This they duly did, but with a twist. The return included, not one, not two, but three new albums, which came fittingly under the names ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!.
Featuring over 37 tracks across all three LPs, there were a few quality control issues as well as some absolute corkers, up there with their finest work. The standout is fist-pumping piledriver ‘99 Revolution’, a supercharged anthemic stomper which has become live staple ever since.
10. ‘Know Your Enemy’
(21st Century Breakdown, 2009)
2009’s 21st Century Breakdown was Green Day’s second rock-opera, one set in the same mould as the all-conquering American Idiot, just with fewer bangers. ‘Know Your Enemy’ is the highlight; a visceral, lean, supremely catchy and powerhouse piece of pop-punk.
Aside from Minority (we’ll get to that in a minute), 2000’s Warning was largely regarded as a misstep by critics and longtime fans, with the pop-punk stylings and buzzsaw guitars that took the band to megastardom giving way to something mellower – with Armstrong talking up The Beatles, The Kinks and Bob Dylan as key influences.
The album is more of a mixed bag than a flop, but ‘Waiting’, the LP’s third single, remains a seminal Green Day track.
8. ‘2000 Light Years Away’
Green Day’s first glut of EPs (and arguably their first two albums) sound a bit scrappy and DIY, but there are big hints of what they would go on to deliver in the gem of ‘2000 Light Years Away’. It’s fuzzy and raw, but built around an absolute monster chorus and delivered with so much energy.
7. ‘Basket Case’
Obviously it’s impossible to list Green Day’s best songs and not include ‘Basket Case’. From the instantly recognisable intro to the arms aloft chorus it’s a weird, angular, but absolutely essential slice of punk rock history.
6. ‘Brain Stew’/’Jaded’
As anyone who has ever borne witness to a Green Day show over the last 30 years will attest, the band never play the swampy jagged delight that is ‘Brain Stew’ without immediately following it up with the furious intensity of ‘Jaded’. They don’t separate them so neither will we. The highlight of Dookie follow-up Insomniac, this was the first hint at the band’s taste for experimentation, while keeping the same tongue-in-cheek humour and powerhouse punk pace in the mix.
5. ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’
1997’s Nimrod is a sprawling, 18-track effort that goes just about everywhere musically; from delicate ballads to vicious post-punk to scattergun ska. The record’s second song is the brilliant ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’, a sub three-minute, rocket-powered rocker with a gigantic chorus and epic guitar solo. It’s still one of the highlights of every Green Day show.
4. ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’
The real lasting legacy of Nimrod is ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, a softly-sung, tender and intricate ballad. A staple of proms, weddings, and any occasion where it’s all getting a bit teary, this song proved beyond any doubt that Green Day are capable of anything.
The polar opposite of ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, ‘Minority’ is a stomping anthem, with a chorus that’s made for shouting at the top of your lungs. It is also possibly the only pop-punk song with an accordion breakdown after the guitar solo. Anthemic, full of piss and vinegar and so, so catchy, it is an absolute triumph.
2. ‘American Idiot’
(American Idiot, 2004)
The song that turned Green Day from comfortable arena sellers into a band who could suddenly fill football stadiums around the world, ‘American Idiot’ still sounds as vital, caustic and brilliant as it did the day it was first released.
1. ‘When I Come Around’
Somewhere, in the midst of all the brilliant, sneering, caustic songs about smoking, drinking and messing about that make up Dookie, Green Day snuck in ‘When I Come Around’, a delicate, light, elegant and poignant thing. It stood out back in 1994 and it continues to stand out almost 30 years later.