End Ranks: Green Day's discography from best to worst

October 4, 2016

One of the coolest parts about seeing Green Day live is watching them still blast through songs we’ve all heard a million times but reenergized like an 80s Autobot hooked up to an energon cube. It makes it so fun to go back and comb through the catalog.

Writing this piece personally illuminated just how long I’ve been buying music. Perhaps you’ll flashback to being a kid in the 90s with a physical printed catalog of CDs from Columbia House when you read this, but save for Pearl Jam Vs., my first batch of albums ever purchased came from a mail-order source.

In that first batch of “buy one get ten free” were names like Weezer, Oasis and Green Day.

Green Day now has 12 (!!!) studio albums out in the wild, and I have been tasked with ranking all of them in order from best to worst. (Revolution Radio hasn't been out long enough to work its way into this list yet)

Let’s do this.

1. Dookie (1994)

Look. I was 14 when Dookie came out. This was our Twenty One Pilots of today, or 2005’s My Chemical Romance. There’s no way I’m not putting this at the top. We all ran out and learned how to play power chords on a guitar (without mastering and practicing songwriting). Grunge was king, but we wanted to be snotty and bad - and seeing a man destroy his couch with a knife in one video* followed by an insane asylum full of wonderful color and weird hair in the next - get out of here. Nothing better captures why I loved Green Day than the “Jaded in Chicago” concert that MTV aired when Dookie hit its pinnacle. It’s a must watch.

2. American Idiot (2004)

This album spawned a (mediocre) musical. That’s how powerful it was. It did make me mad though because after years of Billie Joe playing that same crappy turquoise Fender guitar, he finally grew up and started evolving himself - sort of exactly what this album did for their sound. The record ushered in a new era of a band that otherwise felt like it was stagnating and unsure what they were supposed to do. They wrote a punk rock opera and it obliterated a lot of the ideas we had about the Oakland band of smarty pants.

3. Insomniac (1995)

This was tough as a kid to process. We waited forever. We went after school to get it with saved allowance money or whatever. We got home and put the CD in while unfolding the very strange album art/poster. We were met with a much darker Green Day. Looking back, I loved this album. It documents a much cloudier journey talking about things like smoking drugs (not the plant kind). That blue-haired “Basket Case” video long in the rear view mirror.

4. Kerplunk (1992)

We were so gripped by Dookie that we had to know everything about Green Day. Thanks to its power, we actually sought out the coolest (in hindsight) independent record store because the guy had copies of albums like Kerplunk. It wasn’t polished like Dookie. It didn’t have cool videos on MTV. It did have incredible, formative songwriting. Also, it broke our dumb brains that it featured a different version of “Welcome to Paradise.” By the end of the record, I’ve usually lost focus and wander off -back in the day it would be to play Sega Genesis or something ancient like that.

5. Nimrod (1997)

I started college when it was Nimrod’s turn at the plate. I’ll always remember the video for “Nice Guys Finish Last” because of the telestrator of the guy jumping on stage and tackling Billie Joe. Upon further review, this might be my favorite Green Day video to date.

6. 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (1991)

In a weird sort of way, this album is the beginning of a time for Green Day where Warning is the end. It’s way easier to hear their The Who and Dylan influences in these songs and then again in 2000. That being said, in this forced LP we got it in the 90s from the local record store, it was a bunch of work slapped together in one album. It’s hard to rank this record because it’s such a fun mess. Oh, it’s sort of like that Minor Threat record that takes Minor Threat, Flex Your Head, and Out of Step EPs and puts them together.

7. Warning (2000)

I never cared about this - sorry Green Day. I was in college and NOFX and Fugazi, two bands who don’t mix well, were the most important thing to me. This felt like Green Day’s “it’s ok that we’re getting older and don’t really know what to do about it” record. I’m grateful for American Idiot because they would find the perfect way to change.

8. 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

How do you follow American Idiot? Not like this.

9. Uno

I.

10. Dos

Can’t

11. Tre

Even.

“No, but there were some good parts…” No. Stop.

It looks like Billie Joe talked about the decline of the beloved band to Rolling Stone detailing how the gang ran out of steam a bit after a punishing 15 years of six or seven days a week performing, writing, and practicing. He was having some pretty serious substance issues and the sound of Green Day certainly suffered.

Now, with Revolution Radio on the horizon, it will be pretty interesting to see how the black hair and eyeliner transitions, if at all, into a new Green Day sound. Perhaps they’ll revisit times when they had more fun. I can’t wait to see where they slide into this list, and I’m sure we’ll disagree.

I’m just happy that a band that has kept making music and playing their faces off is still at it. I’m grateful to have a shot at showing some younger people who never knew “punk rock” Green Day, people who just think of them as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” Green Day, showing them what a rad discography of fast, down-stroke, power chord punk this group has amassed.

I definitely want to dye my hair blue and run around with a short sleeve shirt and tie like the wonder Mr. Armstrong.

Follow The End on Twitter: @1077TheEnd
Follow Gregr on Twitter: @heygregr

*It’s pretty f***ing hard to believe that MTV used to show music videos and not just Nitro Circus and shows about pregnant kids or spoiled little shits getting their way. There used to be a proper video countdown show and “When I Come Around” was number one for a billion weeks.