The Over/Under: Green Day


Once upon a time, Green Day was the little punk band that could, a heart-on-sleeve manifestation of the fiercely indie Berkeley music scene hovering around 924 Gilman St. back in the ‘80s (along with contemporaries Rancid and Pansy Division) and indefatigable champions of the “loud fast rules” associated with punk’s decades-old orthodoxy. Twenty years, eight studio releases and tens of millions of records sold later, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool are the last men standing in the rock ‘n’ roll army, a compellingly three-dimensional band capable of unleashing a magnum opus such as their brand-new 21st Century Breakdown on the masses. It’s an 18-song, hour-plus, honest-to-god rock opera that blows out an epic, Zen Arcade-like bildungsroman with economic, A Quick One precision while flaunting an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the entirety of rock history from the Beatles and Kinks to the Pretty Things and Clash. In short: Green Day is probably rock’s best example of how a little vision, a lot of talent and a dash of dumb luck can easily translate to rock-god status in our ongoing artistic recession. Fresh off the band’s appearance on Saturday Night Live and smack in the middle of a week’s worth of appearances at various venues around New York City, here are the five most overrated and underrated Green Day tracks, as chosen by MAGNET’s Corey duBrowa.

:: The Five Most Overrated Green Day Songs
1. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” (1997)

This acoustic ballad—originally the b-side for Insomniac track “Brain Stew” but given a string-sweetened arrangement by the time it landed on Nimrod—was conceived by Armstrong as a breakup song, a tune about, he says, a “girl who was moving to Ecuador … which I wrote as kind of a bon voyage. I thought that calling the song ‘Time Of Your Life’ was just a little too level-headed for me, so I had to come up with something different.” But its sepia-toned, MTV award-winning video and nostalgic point of view have made it the band’s “Stairway To Heaven,” a maudlin, played-every-day-on-alternative-radio, prom/wedding song that’s out of keeping with pretty much everything else in the Green Day canon. It also served as the soundtrack to the next-to-last Seinfeld episode, which hardly qualifies as a sin but certainly assigns the song the unmistakable whiff of “overrated.”

2. “American Idiot” (2004)
When this track first came out, those of us who loathed every square inch of Dubya and all he stood for took Green Day’s pass at protest rock to heart as our rallying cry, a repudiation of an administration we hadn’t voted for, an agenda we couldn’t relate to, a philosophy as out of step with the hopes/dreams of most liberal Americans as fascism. But then this dude named Obama came along in 2008, and now the song feels … a little quaint. Dated. Heavy-handed. In fact, hearing “American Idiot” today either makes me reflexively think of Weird Al’s parody “Canadian Idiot” or pine for Britt Daniel’s similarly minded Spoon track “Don’t Make Me A Target,” which skewered Bush and his cronies in a much more clever, sustainable way.

3. “Walking Contradiction” (1995)
After the megazillion sales and worldwide success of 1994’s Dookie, you could almost hear Green Day stepping back from the third-wave pop/punk mania the band had created. Insomniac is the sound of a group trying too hard to top itself, and “Walking Contradiction” (the album’s fourth and final single) is Green Day in rage-by-numbers mode: a little tired, kinda frazzled, copping the same chords/moves that made the trio so successful just one year previous but sounding stale in the process.

4. Kerplunk! (1992)
Green Day was that ‘90s rarity: a band whose journey from the minors to the majors didn’t cost it any energy or rawness in the transition. (Unlike, let’s say, Nirvana, whose sub-metallic sludge on Bleach became a sonically enhanced roar on Nevermind little more than a year later.) That said, the band’s so-called dress rehearsal for the major labels, 1992’s Kerplunk! (Green Day’s final indie album), is betrayed by a thin, tinny mix, reducing its power considerably. (It’s not accidental that two of the LP’s songs, “2,000 Light Years Away” and “Welcome To Paradise,” were re-recorded by producer Rob Cavallo as soon as the band signed to Reprise.) In particular, it’s powerhouse drummer Cool who’s given short shrift on this album; fill after amazingly athletic fill sounds like it’s being played from within a wet cardboard box, rendering terrific compositions such as “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” and “No One Knows” somewhat stillborn compared to earlier EPs such as 1990’s Slappy or 1989’s 1,000 Hours.

“No One Knows”:

5. “Welcome To Paradise” (1994)
So I just spent the entire previous entry bemoaning the fact that this song was under-recorded on Kerplunk!; that’s true enough. But placing a sonically buffed-up version of it on the very next album, surrounded by evergreen superhits such as “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around” and “Longview,” just demonstrates that they’d already covered this turf and needed to keep on keeping on. The new environs didn’t really improve the quality of it much; adding a rarity like “On The Wagon” (given its angsty ruminations on drinking) to Dookie might have made more sense artistically, although it’s highly unlikely the band would agree given its success with the release of “Paradise” as a single. Which nevertheless makes it an obvious candidate for “overrated.”

:: The Five Most Underrated Green Day Songs
1. “Warning” (2000)

The title track to an album largely unloved by most Green Day fans (at the time of its release, it represented a commercial low point for the band, only going gold) gleefully rips off the Kinks’ “Picture Book” bass line and points the way toward a future in which the group’s sound would be less characteristic of its punk past but would evolve as rapidly as Armstrong’s increasingly sophisticated songwriting. Fueled by acoustic guitars, up-front melodies and a propulsive beat more reminiscent of the British Invasion than the summer of ’77, “Warning” served notice that Green Day refused to be boxed in, leaving the Blink-182s and Sum 41s of the world choking on its dust.

2. Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop Drop And Roll!!! (2008)
What to make of a band whose idea of a vacation is to create an alter ego and record an entirely separate album while working on the follow-up to its biggest record to date? Green Day’s busman’s holiday finds the trio operating in underground garage-rock mode under the nom de plume Foxboro Hot Tubs, and this dashed-off release sounds as fresh and immediate as anything in its catalog, zig-zagging between Nuggets-era influences (such as the Farfisa organ liberally sprinkled over the entire affair) and rewrites of more instantly recognizable ‘60s tracks such as “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (“Sally”), “You Really Got Me” (“Alligator”) and “Heart Full Of Soul” (“Dark Side Of Night”). Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool play the role of petty thieves with exceedingly good taste, and sly humor and loose-elbowed fun abound on Stop Drop And Roll!!!, something largely missing from the group’s more serious-minded concept fare of the past five years.

“Dark Side Of Night”:

3. “Jesus Of Suburbia” (2004)
Some will look at this choice and sniff, “How the hell can you call that underrated?” “Jesus Of Suburbia” definitely registers as one of Green Day’s finest recorded moments and has come to serve as an anchor of its live sets. But how in the world can you call it “overrated” when the five-movement, nine-plus-minute song bobs and weaves its way through standard-issue pop-punk (“Jesus Of Suburbia”), a piano-laced interlude (“City Of The Damned”), the slobbering, thundering middle section (“I Don’t Care”), acoustic mid-tempo connective tissue (“Dearly Beloved”) and an outsized, anthemic curtain call (the spectacularly good “Tales Of Another Broken Home”), all in service of a tale of bored rebellion as nuanced as Pete Townshend’s “Quadrophenia” and as powerful as any of Paul Westerberg’s snot-nosed teenage character studies? “Jesus Of Suburbia” is, in many ways, the logical synthesis of Armstrong’s aspirations as a songwriter: his masterpiece and an illustration of the power of Green Day as a band capable of not only interpreting Armstrong’s material faithfully but actually improving upon it.

4. “F.O.D.” (1994)
“You’re just mad ‘cause you’re in the rain. Well, fuck you! I hope it rains so much that you all get stuck.” Who, having seen it, can possibly forget the indelible images of Green Day at Woodstock in 1994, ducking drunken, pogoing punters and giant hunks of mud being whipped at them from the rain-sodden crowd as they ripped through this song as though their very lives depended on it? Emblematic of the band’s early up-yours attitude, “F.O.D.” is two-odd minutes of molten fury shaped into a lightning bolt, the better to whip at an audience as anarchic as the one in upstate New York that ugly summer day.

5. “Why Do You Want Him?” (1990)
Ever lost a father to cancer? I have. Ever written a song about the aftermath of such a traumatic event? Didn’t think so. Ever do so as your first song ever (in Armstrong’s case, at age 14, written from the vantage point of the enmity and anger he had for his father’s replacement in the family portrait), right out of the gate? That’s the kind of artist Armstrong was and is; he may have since revisited this emotional territory (“Wake Me Up When September Ends”), but the fact that Green Day’s ground zero was rooted in something this meaningful and tuneful should surprise no one who’s only come to discover the band through the mini-operas and narratives of its latter-day career.

Read MAGNET’s newly posted 1993 story about San Francisco “popcore,” featuring Green Day, Jawbreaker and J-Church.

35 replies on “The Over/Under: Green Day”

Go Magnet for covering a deserving band that all of their snobby readers will frown at. Very punk rock. The writer missed “Going to Pasalacqua” in the underrated songs category.

I’m sorry I just don’t think Green Day is that good or especially deserving of a list like this. I don’t really care. Probably many of us don’t really care.

Great list. I think that a lot of the visitors on this site underestimate Green Day or discredit them due to their infinite amount of success.

‘Walking Contradiction’ to me is one of their best songs and ‘Kerplunk!’ is way better then ’39/smooth’. I would say however, that I agree that ‘FOD’ is well underated.


i think green day is just underrated most of the time, mainly by disgruntled old fans who think that green day sux now b/c they’re actually better now than ever, which doesnt make alot of sense to me but whatever, this was a great list, but good riddance time of your life can never be overrated, that song is awesome, long live green day! best band of this generation

Great article but have to disgree with some, i cant see how walking contradiction was overrated but more or less agree with the rest 🙂

Jesus of Surburbia ~=
b) bryan adams “summer of ’69”
c) “everything’s alright” from J.C. Superstar
e) the alarm “68 guns”
f) big country “close action”
and along with that kinks “picture book” opener rip-off on “Warning”, this is the kind of stuff, intentional or not, that just bugs the be-jeezus out of me. it’s just that the above references are so familiar to me my brain keeps a ticker running through itself “rip off…. rip off…. rip off….” nothing this blatantly derivative should be considered a masterpiece. BUT, although i’m not a big fan of green day, i like ’em okay and think they’ve got some nice riffs and nice melodies, and bless any band that is allowed to keep making records over a long (10+ yrs) period of time. But who the f was that additional guitar player on stage with them on SNL? cheaters.

greenday can write catchy songs because their so called most overrated are good

I don’t see how walking contradiction is overrated, its lyrics are magically ironic, how could you not love that? I agree with all the underrated songs. 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours is overall underrated. Warning (the album) too. And “Homecoming” I think is absolutely brilliant. It tells a nice story that I’ve never gotten tired of.

As a young Greendayologist and lifelong fan under 31, I love it when old people dissect their songs and tell *me the references. And sound really bitter.

I love the overrated/underrated list, especially Jesus Of Suburbia–which I have on a ten inch record.

My list:

Brain Stew/Jaded





Geek Stink Breath


Paper Lanterns.

Wow I really disagree with the Overrated!
How in the hell does it not include Brain Stew?! Good Riddance very well might register high on the list of most overplayed songs but to include on a list of overrated songs is just pure ignorance and pretention. In a world where bands, particularly pop-punk bands and music in general, is lyrically SO literal, BJA’s abstract, metaphorical lyrics, with the band’s robust arangement…you very well may be, and probably are, sick of hearing Good Riddance, but there is no denying that it is one the all-time greatest songs in pop music. The fact that it is a huge departure from their typical sound (yet still fits cohesively with the album) only amplifies that.

However, I am totally with you on Walking Contradiction and Welcome To Paradise. As for Kerplunk, and while I agree that they did fuck up the mix, but the album is too damn good to be considered overrated! I pretty much agree with all of ther underrated list, but just a question…what the hell is Brain Stew doing missing on the overrated list?!

With American Idiot, I am dumbfounded that you can call this masterpiece overrated. That entire album is one of the very few albums which can be listened to over and over again and never lose its poignancy. Maybe the country has moved on to the Obama administration, but we certainly have not forgotten the atrocities of the Bush era. The album/song have themes of isolation and disenfranchisement that are relevant in any age, only exacerbated by being set in the confusion and fear of Bush’s America. To say something about a certain song on American Idiot is much like talking about a certain scene from a movie…it needs to be viewed and analyzed as a whole. The album has a certain duality….It is a postcard in time, yet is also timeless, and will certainly be every bit as listened to and beloved fifty years from now as albums such as Sgt Pepper and Quadrophenia are today, many years after their release and initial popularity — without ever seeming dated.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten what Green Day did with this album. They opened up a national dialogue that people were too afraid to speak openly about before American Idiot. Remember just a year before the album’s release when the Dixie Chicks (who’s brilliant follow-up album The Long Way Around very much deserved its 5 Grammys!) were Jihadists? (Who would’ve thought that in a day and age with all these phony corporate “artists” trying to label themselves as “punk” while not knowing a thing about the concept, that the Dixie Chicks, of all people, would become my modern punk heroes?! lol) Yes, Bush bashing did become the cool thing to do, which is particularly irritating when done by people who have no idea what they’re talking about, however, to question the impact this song and this album had on the country, look not at the 14 million copies it sold, but the nation’s opinion on our president. In 2002 and 2003, before American Idiot, Bush’s approval ratings were, on average, in the above 65-75% range. Late 2004 is what started his downward spiral of public opinion, which eventually sunk to less than 30% — the lowest of any president in the history of the United States! Is that necessarily because of Green Day? No. But they sure as hell contributed through their music, through metaphor, and through sheer ballsiness and fearlessness in opening the country’s eyes, and inspiring people like myself, who at the time, had no political opinions, knowledge, or involvement, into realizing that this is too important to just be blase about.

Overrated? Fucking heeeeeell no! X-)

1039 is much better than kerplunk
in fact, kerplunk is my least favorite green day album
and my favorite song of theirs is “only of you”
with its quite complex solo, it should be in the underrated category

oh and green day totally ripped off “pulling teeth” from 7 seconds “punk rock teeth”

I’d trade “Warning” for “Waiting” in the under and raise you an Insomniac. Easily the most overlooked in their discography and a personal favorite: I have a rejected book treatment to prove it.

You get close, but overall… No (disclaimer. I still like the overrated songs, they are just overrated by others)


1. Good Riddance (of course)
2. Boulevard (overplayed, overvalued, good song on a great album, but overplayed)
3. Basketcase (for those of you who hail this as the greatest green day song ever, no, not even close)
4. When I come around (one of my least favorite dookie songs, compared to longview, burnout, even songs like coming clean)
5. Waiting ( Warning is a great, underrated album, but this song was one of my least favorites from the folky, original cd that changed green day’s career)

1. Jesus of Suburbia ( Probably the best green day song until recently, its length keeps it underrated)
2. Walking Contradiction ( Really amazing lyrics, descriptive of an entire generation)
3. Going to Pasalacqua (Probably started their career with this song, but noooobody knows it other than we the obsessed)
4. The album Warning (lyrically, the start of the new and superior Green Day, and had the smallest fan following of any album post-dookie)
5. Burnout (Amazing song, from an amazing album, overshadowed by the Dookie singles)

i can’t understand why people doin that shit,
only for entertainmet or what the hell i don’t know..
why i should rate some green day classics (best & worst) and then be proud of it.. that’s shit…

1. Redundant
2. 2000 Light Years Away
3. Jesus of Suburbia
4. Deadbeat Holiday
5. Warning

I almost put Worry Rock because it has one of the greatest lines in any Green Day song, a perfect line to end a song about a very rocky patch in a marriage: “Promise me no dead end streets and I’ll guarantee we’ll have the road.”


1. Wake Me Up When September Ends
2. None of their other big hits or singles are overrated IMHO

I disagree about Good Riddance. It is heard an awful lot and familiarity breeds contempt, but it’s an undeniably great song.

I don’t agree with this list at all. And yes, Green Day are a very derivative band musically, but they come from a very derivative genre. Anyway, I don’t listen to them for their ability to breakdown musical boundaries – I listen to them because they can write catchy ditties.

And it totally blows my mind that people don’t like Kerplunk! It’s such a masterpiece. Christie Road is hands down their most underrated song of all time. In fact…

5) Good Riddance
4) American Idiot
3) Warning
2) Minority
1) Basket Case

5) Church on Sunday
4) Castaway
3) Scattered
2) Going to Pasalcqua
1) Christie Road

Oh, and I agree with Mark Severin, and mistercharlie, the guy was Jason White, he’s been playing with them since 2000 – he was even offered a spot in the band but refused.

i don’t think welcome to paradise is over rated. just my personal opinion but i think thats one of their best songs. i consider it timeless. as for jesus of suburbia i think thats a great song and i completely agree that it’s under rated. just cause it doesn’t sound like there old stuff doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. i think more people should appreciate their musical talent.

I guess some people have a lot of time on their hands if they are doing things like this. Green Day are the greastest punk band in the world and always will be. none of their songs are overrated or underrated. they just make awesome songs. i love em!!! ;-D

I guess I’ll weigh in with an actual list:

Jaded/Brain Stew
American Idiot
King for a Day (perhaps just by the band)
Welcome to Paradise

This over/under thing is stupid. It just depends on the people’s likes and dislikes. Someone will say Brain Stew was underrated, someone won’t and there’ll be a huge internet fight about it. Nothing is over or underrated… Just listen to the songs and don’t write these stupid lists, for god’s sake.

i think all there songs r gooood…. but i think warning is overrated not underrated… and y was there foxboro hottubs songs…. that not green day…. its a side band….. the guy cheated…..

I am very disappointed that Boulevard of Broken Dreams wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the overrated!
I cannot STAND to listen to that song anymore, it sounds nothing like green day and is so whiny! haha. I think I’m gonna get shot for saying that.

But I agree with most of what has been said, American Idiot is also definitely overrated. Although I do love walking contradiction, mostly because I love the video though I think.

Scattered, homecoming (which is just as good as Jesus of Suburbia if not better), JAR, going to pasalaqua and countless others are all underrated.
I think Green Day in general are underrated by many fans of “alternative” music. I’m sick of being looked at like I’m an idiot because my favourite band is so darn popular. If that massive contradiction makes any sense.

Good job on the list and explanations and all that though! =]

These are amazing comments/points of view. I love what amounts to a TRUE fan forum — it must be obvious that I really love this band and wait’ll you guys see my live review of the Bowery Ballroom gig (going up on the site ASAP). Thanks for all the input and enthusiasm — I’ve had a great time hearing from everyone.

Britt Daniel (spoon) more clever and sustainable than Green Day? I find that hard to believe…wait a minute.

American Idiot is overrated because of Obama’s ascension? The song is a strong and in your face reflection of the times, and while many ‘political artists’ turtled through the Bush years, these guys charted a new course for their band and fans. As far as Spoon’s “Don’t Make Me a Target” being more ‘clever’, well…. maybe. But Bush was a larger than life American Idiot, and deserved to be dealt with using a steamroller, not a scalpel. I’m glad that Green Day got their point across without adopting a faux intellectualism, which clearly isn’t their forte.

in response to “mistercharlie” about cheating on SNL by having another guitar player.. that’s Jason White. He’s in the band for live performances… just wondering how thats “cheating”?

Have to say, it’s impossible for me to overrate or underrate any of GD’s songs as I pretty much think they are all amazing.

Taking a bit of time to warm to some of the tracks on the new album but I’m getting there.

As for Walking Contradiction being overrated, that’s a crock. Insomniac is Billie Joe’s second best album lyrically, second to Nimrod that is, which is the bomb, and Walking Contradiction has some of the best lyrics ever penned to my mind. “Call it as I see it even if I was born deaf blind and dumb” awesome.

And I agree that the production quality of Kerplunk isn’t the best, but that’s why it’s so easy to love. That and the fantastic songmanship on every track.

i’d just like to say that i’ve been a huge fan of Green Day for over 5 years now and there are going to be some bands you like and others you don’t; as well as songs. I don’t think you should trash much of Green Day’s songs because their an inspirational band unlike some other bands out there. Billie Joe writes all of his lyrics and their orginal. So what if you don’t like some of there songs, but in my opinion most of their songs are some of the best songs out there. Espically their American Idiot album.

Im very glad that they put Foxboro Hottubs in the underrated list. This is one of the reasons why green day is such a great band; they can play such a wide variety of musical styles while still maintaining their own unique sound. “The Pedestrian” is one of my favorite green day songs. I would deffinetly put Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Holiday on the overrated list. Both of these songs have been played on the radio and on MTV way to many times. I agree with Welcome to Paradise as well, it doesnt fit in with the rest of the songs on Dookie. As for the underrated list, im happy to see the album Warning as #1. However, I would put Homecoming instead of Jesus of Suburbia. In my opinion, other underrated songs are Only of You, Paper Lanterns, She, Armatage Shanks, Scattered, and Redundant.

i agree with this list very much. although i’d include burnout in the underrated list

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