Green Day have always defied the odds. Who’d have thought, for instance, that their 1994 major label debut, ”Dookie,” with its short and sour, punk inspired guitar attacks, would go multiplatinum, much less win these assiduous brats a Grammy? Or that six years later, with Warning, guitarist/ complainer Billie Joe Armstrong, pushing 30, would manage to remain entertainingly adolescent while allowing for a few lifestyle modifications?
Where on ”Dookie” he sang, ”I’m not growing up, I’m just burning out,” ”Warning”’s ”Church on Sunday” has him acknowledging that he’s not getting any younger, and asking ”If I promise to go to church with you on Sunday/ Will you go with me on Friday night,” wrapping it all up with the startling declaration ”If you live with me, I’ll die for you and this compromise.” He surrounds these piquant sentiments with music as peppy as any Green Day have recorded, allowing a way to grow up without losing much in the way of spunk or sass.
The band’s musical range has also broadened a bit. You’d expect a Day song called ”Misery” to be a whining rant; instead, it’s set to a waltz beat complete with sung spoken lyric that’s probably Billie Joe’s idea of a Brecht Weill pop operetta. Too bad this clever idea goes on too long: five minutes plus — an epic by Green Day standards.
Still, the boys are capable of revving up their patented heedless hedonism, encapsulated neatly — and gloriously — on ”Blood, Sex, and Booze,” whose choral guitar thrash is deeply satisfying. These days, Green Day sing about troubled consciences (”Hold On”) and political apathy (the title tune), and have the sense to give a song with the lyric ”loving you must be like suicide” the title ”Jackass.” After selling millions, Armstrong nevertheless professes, ”I wanna be the minority,” and he remains enough of a juvenile twit to make that manifesto seem both heartfelt and convincing.