Did Green Day Kill Punk Rock?

Green Day hasn't been to the Valley since 2013.EXPAND
Green Day hasn't been to the Valley since 2013.

Did Green Day really kill punk rock?

Saying that a single band can kill an entire music genre seems almost too easy, like a Trump joke for a political comedian.

It seems like it would be simple to lambaste our Tweeter-in-Chief, but in reality, to come up with a really good Trump joke these days takes some actual thought.

To come up with something original, for example, is at best difficult and at worst, really hard.

When it comes to the validity or overall “punkness” of any punk rock band, there are always compelling for and against arguments. It’s all subjective, for one thing, and for another, there are about a million different definitions of punk floating around out there. Hell, I’ve put more than one idea about this into writing myself over the course of my four years as a New Times contributor and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

But: Green Day is coming to town and it’s time to take them down.

In a way, they are the Donald Trumps of pop-punk. They came around in the early-'90s and tried to make tightly wound, poppy punk rock great again. Unfortunately, tightly wound pop-punk is never great, so there was nothing to make great “again.” In fact, there is a long-held myth out there that there were once these great, pop-punk bands.

There weren’t.

For example, fans sometimes mistakenly refer to Ramones as pop punk. They were not pop punk, although when they were at their worst (which was much of the time after 1978) they had strong elements of pop in their tunes. The Ramones tunes that cemented their reputation as part of punk’s holy trinity were bratty, angry, and totally subversive. Songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Beat On the Brat” were, and are, awesome. Green Day, at best, has made attempts at authentic brattiness over the years and singer/guitar player Billy Jo Armstrong has a pretty good sneer, but so did the late, great actor Alan Rickman.

I myself could have been found pontificating many times, to anyone who would listen, about how Green Day was just a bad knock off of bands like SoCal legends Descendents and Bay Area underground faves, Mr. T Experience (MTX, to some) to name a couple of bands I actually liked when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, but the wisdom of age has brought me to the conclusion that this is not necessarily the case. Green Day are actually a better rock 'n' roll band than the Descendents, which makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth to admit, but Milo Goes To College, the Descendents stellar 1982 record, is still better than anything Green Day has ever done.

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The sad truth of the matter is that most of the other (non-Milo Goes To College) Descendents material is pretty boring and gave birth to an even more depressing genre of punk than Green Day ever did. While many fans will disagree with this because they’ve never really taken the time to listen to actual punk rock, bands like NOFX, Lagwagon, practically the entire Fat Wreck Chords catalog, and Blink 182 are not punk and never will be. They are just successful beer salesmen who play whiny crap for pre-teen girls and frat bros.

The real heroes of the days of yore may very well be Mr. T Experience. Check out Making Things With Light by MTX, Green Day fans. You won’t be disappointed. If Mr. T Experience had broken out of the Bay Area like Green Day did, maybe Sylvester Stallone would be President now. Think about it.

And there is also way more to punk than just looking the part.

By all accounts, if you look at the early pictures of the guys in Green Day, they were punks when they started and are now old, rich punks probably still today. I’m sure they still listen to a lot of the same records they loved before they were mega stars and maybe even dig bands like OFF! or G.L.O.S.S., but somewhere along the line, to be a punk band, you have to play punk music, not just look the part.

To retain some level of street cred, I suppose, Green Day still dresses the part and totally paved the way for bands like A.F.I. and Rancid, for example who, to use a current political reference, were like the Milo Yiannopoulos’s of faux hardcore. Green Day, in a way, was the antidote for Nirvana, who didn’t seem to want to be part of any punk uniform-wearing society (even though they helped to create an entirely different uniform that still exists today). While Nirvana embraced the scary parts of punk rock, Green Day (Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool) was something the masses could glom on to.

Almost worse than killing punk rock, Green Day made it safe.

There is still great music coming out today by actual punk rock bands. You just have to wade through a lot of crap to find it. Listening to Revolution Radio, my friends, is not the way to salvation.


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