Green Day’s Nimrod turns 25 — WECB
Oft-watched and probably gathering dust in your dad’s oversized black vinyl CD case, Green Day’s fifth studio album Nimrod turned 25 yesterday, October 14. Coming into awareness in the mid-2000s, I’ve known the quintessential ’90s punk rock trio for as long as I can remember. Providence’s local radio station WBRU aired hits from its seminal album Dookie every day – “Elle”, “Longview”, “Welcome to Paradise” and of course “Basket Case”. I didn’t become a huge fan of the band until my freshman year of high school, but by diving deep into their discography, I became a fan of Nimrod. It is arguably their most sonically and lyrically diverse album, presenting the themes typically found on a punk record in new and refreshing ways.
Green Day never strays too far from the iconic sound that solidified their place in rock history. They play along the genre in “Platypus (I Hate You)” and “Take Back”, which are more metallic adjacent tracks. There’s fun instrumentation on “Walking Alone” – frontman and lead guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong learned to play the harmonica just for this track – and “King for a Day” – a loud fanfare of horns announcing the shameless drag queen narrator of the song. “Last Ride In” is one of two all-instrumental songs Green Day has ever released. It’s a strange three-minute interlude with bass, horns and even marimba. However, the album opens with “Nice Guys Finish Last” – a smart move for the band, as it’s the song most reminiscent of their earlier work. It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s angry, and it would go well with either Dookie Where Insomniacthe track listings of. There are a handful of songs that fit that classic hate anthem energy – namely “The Grouch” and “Jinx” – but what sets them apart from other songs in Green Day’s repertoire are their lyrics. and the quality of their storytelling.
“The Grouch” takes the perspective of an aging narrator who feels wronged by everyone and struggles to find a reason to carry on. I feel like these feelings could be related to the band’s time in the punk scene – in 1997 they had already existed for almost a decade. The chorus, “Wasted youth and a handful of ideas / I had a youthful and optimistic point of view”, suggests that this narrator was once bright-eyed, bright and excited about the opportunities life presented him. Now they have been chewed up, spat out and feel jaded.
On the surface, “Jinx” is just another self-deprecating track. If you take a second – literally a second because most of these songs aren’t much longer than two minutes – and really focus on the lyrics, there’s a certain weight to them that wasn’t present on previous albums. . The second verse is particularly striking with the lyrics “You’ve finally met your nemesis / Disguised as your long-lost fatal love / So kiss him goodbye until death do us part / You fell for a jinx for crying out loud.” This level of self-reflection where Armstrong contextualizes his internal struggles with their impact on his loved ones.
Self-reflexivity is a major aspect of this record, as many tracks detail struggles with alcoholism, depression, and guilt. The first single, “Hitchin a Ride” – which implements a string arrangement in addition to guitar, bass and drums – struggles to stay sober. The chorus is playful, using the old phrase “off the wagon” to illustrate their departure from the discipline and is now “hitchhiking” into more fun but self-destructive tendencies. These ideas find echo in “All the Time” and “Uptight” – the latter suggesting that suicide is probably the best option for the narrator: “Uptight, I’m a nag with a gun, yeah / All night, suicide’s last call / I’ve been tense all night / I’m a gun son.
Two songs that speak to me deeply are “Redundant” and, one of Green Day’s most popular songs, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. I choke back tears every time I listen to “Redundant” and there was a time when I had to skip it or I’d be a bloody mess. Unlucky love songs aren’t a new adventure for Green Day, but again, there’s a seriousness that still leaves an indelible mark on me. I think maybe it’s the chorus that does it for me: “Now I can’t speak / I’ve lost my voice / I’m speechless and redundant because ‘I love you isn’t enough / I have no more words.” There’s nothing particularly deep about those lyrics, I admit. I’m sure these are thoughts everyone has had in a failing relationship with someone you still care deeply about. Except you don’t usually get that Green Day mourning. It’s usually something like “you don’t love me anymore so now I’m going to hate you for the rest of my life”. Armstrong seems so desperate in this and it absolutely kills me.
Last, but certainly not least, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is often considered a sold-out song by die-hard Green Day fans. It’s probably because it’s played at graduations, proms, weddings, and even funerals. First off, I couldn’t disagree more that this is a sold out song. I understand it’s acoustic and definitely more appealing to a mass audience in a musical sense, but the lyrics are still very punk. That it’s played at such sentimental times baffles me. It’s literally called “Good riddance”. Armstrong wishes nothing but the worst for his ex-partner in this song. I’ll never understand how it was so misinterpreted, but maybe that’s also what makes it an exceptionally punk anthem. Somehow everyone thought it was a sweet song when it was actually a big “yours”.
The more I listened Nimrod writing this article, the less I understood his kind of middle child treatment. Green Day brings newfound maturity to the forefront of this record, exploring different avenues both musically and lyrically while staying true to their roots. I mean, punk songs are always about booze, drugs and partying, right? But it’s usually talked about in a positive and fun way. Here we look at how damaging this behavior can be to you and the people around you. Even though it was written by a 25 year old man, I would still classify Nimrod as a coming-of-age record. We shouldn’t scoff at this like a worn-out punk rocker who thinks he’s living the glory days of yore when he’s actually in the grip of addiction – we should celebrate. If you want to listen to a strong, upbeat record that has a remarkable sense of self-reflexivity even 25 years after its release, give Nimrod A try.