Words from a Waldman: Ranking Green Day’s Discography

This was hard. That’s what she said. Tom Kunzman (of the Green Day influenced 18th & Addison) and I ranked Green Day’s studio albums (not including B-sides or greatest hits) together separately and then convened on a not-too-short and not-too-long phone call. Luckily there was no shouting; Tom’s a nice guy. We both agree that Green Day doesn’t have a bad album, and we also feel that most bands (like every band that we both have been in) would kill to have written/performed one album on this list, let alone ALL of ‘em, but this subjective list is our ultimate (slightly compromised) list ranking them all. Green Day’s music inspired both of us in too many ways to count. SO, enjoy (or don’t). I’ll let Tom do the talking. If you know him like I do, you know that he most certainly can.

  1. 1039/Smoothed out Slappy Hours

I honestly don’t have much of a reason for having this album last. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t love it. So maybe that IS the reason. Green Day is one of those bands that allow its fans to grow with them. I love seeing a band find its identity and develop, so my respect for this record is astronomical, but my appreciation for what has been released since is what makes me the fan I am today. As would have never gotten one without the other, but when I’m in a Green Day mood, I’m going for the top of the list.

  1. Revolution Radio

Yes. Although my excitement for this record was enormous, and I do still go and listen to it often, it still lands at number 9. A break from the process post-trilogy was definitely necessary because musically, I think it’s the best and most creative version of Green Day that I heard since Warning. Also, bear in mind that it was the first real break they ever actually took. Although lyrically, I found myself wondering where they were coming from on a majority of the album, and tend to skip a track or two (which never really happens to me with this band). Still, I love a self-produced Green Day album!

  1. Uno/Dos/Tre (we mashed these together as one; yell at us)

Talk about ambition. I was so excited for this trilogy to happen because I love big ideas no matter how “un-punk rock” they are. I couldn’t help but think “these dudes are crazy…” At this point, they haven’t stopped moving since American Idiot dropped. I love that drive and effort, but with writing 10 songs, you’re bound to have a few duds and that’s sort of what happened here. That’s why it lands at number 8 for me. Personally, I think if certain songs were taken off and others were put out on one record, it would’ve been a stronger move and higher on this list… Oh, and it was cool to see them back to working with Rob Cavallo again. I like him.

  1. Kerplunk

Yes, Kerplunk is at number 7. Yes, there was a fistfight over it. That’s not true. But there was some discrepancy on the placement of this one! Don’t be hating. For me personally, I found my way to Kerplunk by hearing Dookie, Insomniac, and Nimrod first. Just so you know: I’m prepared to get hurt for that. All my life, I got ridiculed for not owning Kerplunk, first but even when I did dig back, I still find myself more connected to the more current records. Lyrically AND musically.

  1. Nimrod

As a songwriter and musician myself, I love the final product slightly more than I love the process. Now once again, numbers 4-6 were TOUGH to rank. It’s almost as if from Insomniac to Warning they were figuring out that new sound I was patiently waiting for. I love a band that allows you to grow with them. Nimrod was that perfect transition album: The process of getting to Warning. No other album could have come between these two, but it still lands just underneath the start and end of the growing process for me! I’ll stop yelling.

  1. Warning

It’s clear that I love every album on this list for different reasons, but one thing that I cannot pinpoint is exactly why I was so beyond excited for Warning to come out. At this time in my life, all I wanted was that same angry, loud and aggressive punk rock band I love, and the band delivered an almost totally acoustic record. Sort of like they’ve been listening to All Shook Down by The Replacements for weeks on end. I vividly remember my aunt Kim getting me this for Christmas the year it came out. I also remember rushing home as a kid and waiting for the “Minority” video to play on TRL. Remember when we didn’t have YouTube? I digress. I attempted learning the intro to “Minority” on my acoustic guitar, which then lead to me attempting to learn every other song on the album. In closing, I’ll always respect a band that takes a left turn and does it so well.

  1. Insomniac

For these next few records, I genuinely had the hardest time ranking. Insomniac always felt like the heaviest, grittiest, more aggressive version of Green Day and I loved it. It was almost like they didn’t get that youthful frustration out enough on Dookie. The band really started to find its style and lock in together, almost like the beginning of being the uber-tight power trio we know today.

  1. 21st Century Breakdown

Have you ever listened to “American Idiot” straight through & started 21st Century Breakdown immediately after? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on understanding the PERFECT follow-up record. Before you even listen from start to finish, just look at the artwork. It perfectly captured the vibe of the epic story being told on the artwork alone. 21st Century Breakdown was a pristine picture of post-apocalyptic anarchy (say that five times fast), confusion, and love all intertwined into one. The LP had great lyrics, massive production (hi, Butch Vig), compelling storytelling, and powerfully epic musicianship.

  1. American Idiot

As if taking over the world with an album named after fecal matter wasn’t enough, Green Day went & did it again TEN YEARS LATER with American Idiot. The inspiration behind this record is much deeper than just being a politically outspoken release. If you didn’t fully dig into it like I did the day it came out, then you probably disagree with this placement. Whatever, bro. This record is the pinnacle of punk rock & roll and what better band is out there to take on the challenge?

  1. Dookie

Do I really even need to explain this? Do I really even need to explain this? Do I really even need to explain this? Ok. I’m pretty sure that this is the first Green Day record everyone that I know heard, and for almost all of us, this album changed our lives. Not. An. Understatement. For me personally, I finally found “my band” and connected to something. I felt inspired, motivated & determined to do what the band were doing and I wasted no time. I was 8 or 9 and immediately started to figure out how to play guitar. This album deserves the #1 slot on any list in my opinion. Shots (of dookie) fired.

So, that’s it. Green Day’s worst album is better than your best album. Here is a playlist proving why (with one song from each of the above ten listings):

Don’t scream in silence; play this LOUD. Good night and good luck.