Are Green Day Still Punk? You Betcha, By Kim Stolz

SAN FRANCISCO — “I’m going to Hollywood, wooooooooooooahhh!” Green Day’s Tre Cool exclaimed, breaking out of a suite at a hotel where the band has been doing interviews, just a few miles from their East Bay home base. The hallway had been quiet for hours until this point, and there was no apparent reason for Cool’s exclamation, but that’s probably why he did it in the first place.

The first time I heard Green Day I was at an interschool dance in 6th grade. My boyfriend (!!!) Brandon and I were slow-dancing when all of a sudden, the volume was raised and a unique voice invaded the room. “Basket Case,” from Green Day’s breakthrough album Dookie, was requested at every subsequent “dance” from that point forward.

Now, almost two decades later, Green Day has pushed boundaries again with their forthcoming album, 21st Century Breakdown.

The album’s lyrics are political, revolutionary, angry and hopeful; sonically, the album harkens back to the Who and Queen, and brings an influence of classic rock marked with a large, sometimes abrasive sound that is markedly distinct from 2004’s American Idiot. Breakdown, with its 3-minute pop songs, reminds me of Billie Joe Armstrong’s roots and the power of Dookie.


When I interviewed the band, our chairs were surrounded by candles (I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t doing a Stephenie Meyer interview!). In any case, I talked to the boys about Green Day past and present, which hits they’d like to play along with their album on tour (Billie Joe said he’d love to play “She”) and if they are still, in fact, a punk rock band (they seemed very concerned that I would think otherwise and responded with a resounding “YES!”).

The question is, of course, is the world ready to see another shift in Green Day’s sound and storytelling method? Many fans are expecting another epic like Idiot, and while Breakdown certainly possesses a similar political message (which, one might argue, is less relevant in this Obama era than it was during the Bush Administration), it is a departure. By the way, Billie Joe reminded me that while a president of “hope” and “change” is in office, we must not expect any type of quick fix and that there is still much, much more to be done.

Breakdown is also an extremely physical album, and with the boys pushing through their 30s, you might wonder how this will play out on stage. They’re not the 19-year olds they used to be. “I feel like I’m 27 all the time,” Mike Dirnt told me. Ok. And then I remembered Tre Cool sprinting and leaping down the hallway screaming about Hollywood at the top of his lungs and I realized that fans have nothing to worry about.