Mike is a freelance writer with a Punk Rock ethos. He specialises in current and historical music scenes and subcultures.
The world's most successful pop-punk trio has a back catalogue spanning over three decades, but some LPs have been better than others. While power chords and big choruses have always been the band's bread and butter, their sound has, for better and worse, evolved several times over the years. Here we'll be ranking every album from worst to best to see which ones rocked and which perhaps missed the mark.
To keep this list from spiralling out of control, we'll be sticking to studio albums only. That means no live albums and no B-side or greatest hits compilations.
In 2012, Green Day made the unique decision to release three albums in one year. Of course, such an ambitious project was always going to lead to a couple of duds, and it perhaps makes sense that the third of the albums would contain the weaker tracks selection.
Tre! isn't necessarily a bad album, but neither is it the most inspiring either. Tracks such as "X-Kid" and "99 Revolutions" make for decent enough pop-punk fodder, but it rarely seems like the band is moving out of second gear with this offering.
Meanwhile, "The Forgotten (a.k.a. the Twighlight Song)" might be the limpest song the band ever made.
12. Father of All...
Only the most hardcore of Green Day fans would suggest that their 2020 album measured up to their past work. Again, it's not necessarily a bad album. Still, Father of All sees the trio almost turning into a caricature of themselves, as the aging group try just a little too hard to sound edgy and relevant. The band can still pump out arena-ready punk rock anthems with incredible ease, but Father of All is an album that only turned the heads of the already faithful.
Uno would see the band return to the punk rock sound of their earlier recordings, a pleasant surprise for their older fans following two lengthy alt-rock concept albums. Indeed, tracks like "Nuclear Family," "Stay the Night" and "Loss of Control" wouldn't have sounded too out of place on Nimrod or Warning. Other tracks like "Kill the DJ" and "Oh Love" showed that the group was still willing to experiment with new ideas.
As the first part of a trio of albums, Uno was an impressive opener, but when measured on its own merits alone, it still doesn't quite measure up to Green Day's earlier releases.
The young band might still have only been finding their feet with their first album 39/Smooth, but all the ingredients that would make them famous worldwide were already there. Catchy hooks and riffs abound throughout the albums, and tracks like "Going to Passalacqua" remain a gig favourite to this day. Of course, the band hadn't entirely developed the sound that would see them take over the world just yet, but they were certainly working on it.
Dos! stands out as the best of Green Day three quickfire albums of 2012 mainly because it sounds the most original and focused. A spiritual successor of sorts to the band's Foxboro Hot Tubs Side Project release, 'Stop, Drop and Roll!!!' Dos sees the band less concerned with arena anthems than having a blast. The result is some balls-to-the-wall stripped-back punk rock that just so happened to be catchy as hell too.
Warning might just be Green Day's most uneven effort. On the one hand, "Waiting" and "Minority" are the kind of punk rock anthems most bands only dream of writing and "Macy's Day Parade" and the title track proved to be fruitful acoustic ventures. But, on the other hand, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't work, or at least didn't meet fans expectations (castaway anyone?). Many people wrote Green Day off as a band that was winding down after Warning, which was both unfair and wrong, but Warning doesn't quite match up to their best work.
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7. 21st Century Breakdown
21st Century Breakdown tends to divide a lot of opinion amongst Green Day fans. Undoubtedly it's their most ambitious efforts, and despite its hefty length, it is packed with mega hits. An 18-track concept album was just one bridge just a little far for some fans and a far cry from the band's humble punk-pop beginnings. If anything, 21st Century Breakdown is just a little radio-friendly for its own good and lacks some of the heart and soul that made Green Day what they are. If you are ever in need of fun stadium-ready rock anthems, though, then this album has got you covered.
6. Revolution Radio
The best album of Green Day's post-American Idiot era, Revolution Radio proved the band were far from being done just yet. "Still Breathing" and title-track "Revolution Radio" feature some of the biggest choruses the band ever wrote. Meanwhile, "Bang Bang" showcased the band at their most ferocious and fearless, tackling the controversial matter of shootings head-on. The band fire on all-cylinders everywhere, resulting in something that measures up to their very best work.
The first time Green Day accidentally took over the world with Dookie, the pressure was on them to knock it out of the park with the follow-up. But, unfortunately, Insomniac was not the album people were expecting. Lacking the radio-friendly hits of its predecessor, Insomniac didn't sell even nearly as well as Dookie.
While it may not be the band's most successful release, it remains one of their most uniquely brilliant. Inspired, as you might expect from the title, by sleepless nights and a feeling of burnout, Insomniac is more urgent and angsty than anything Green Day had done before or since. To put it simply, Insomniac is, in its own particular way, perfect.
Putting Dookie outside of the top three spots is undoubtedly a controversial choice, and there's a good reason for that. It is, after all, the album that almost single-handedly kicked off the pop-punk era of the 90s and 00s. Virtually every track on this album could have a single, and those released as singles have become all-time rock classics. "Basket Case," "Longview," "When I Come Around": All are songs that would define not only the adolescent years of a whole generation but the youths of several generations after that. So how is it in fourth place? Well, you'll have to read on.
It may lack the production value of their later releases, but Kerplunk remains one of Green Day's most outstanding LPs. Few albums have ever captured the confusion and angst that comes with adolescence quite as well as Kerplunk. Billie Joe and company's songwriting craft was already on point here, never shying away from introspection, a good love song or the band's own brand of humour. Would it have sold like Dookie with a wider release? Maybe, maybe not. But it's still one of the finest examples of pop punk around.
2. American Idiot
The early noughties were a volatile and tense time. A whole generation found themselves growing up amongst uncertainty, fear and often hateful rhetoric and was practically crying out for a voice to speak for them. No one, though, not even a soul, thought that Green Day would be the group to provide that voice, and certainly not in the form of a concept album.
But alas, Green Day once again managed to take over the world and this time, it wasn't by accident. Beginning with the ferocious call to arms that is the title track and centred around two punk-rock operas in "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming," the trio aimed to outdo themselves with every song on the album, and they often did just that.
Albums like American Idiot come by once in a generation, but there's one Green Day album that just about tops what is arguably their most famous work.
Nimrod might be seen as the awkward middle child of Dookie and American Idiot, but it's also Green Day's finest album. Tempering the angst and distortion of their earlier releases with a poppier and more polished sound, Nimrod is more refined than all that came before it and more fun and unfiltered than everything that followed.
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" is obviously the seminal hit, but "Hitchin a Ride" and "Redundant" are megahits in their own right. "Platypus," "Take Back" and "Reject" are as equally ballsy as their Insomniac recordings. "King for a Day" and "Walking Alone" see the group see the trio experimenting with new sounds, whilst the likes of "Haushinka" and "Uptight" are pop-punk gems just waiting for new fans to discover them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Mike Grindle