Green Day's 'Dookie' at 25: All the Songs Ranked Worst to Best
On Feb. 1, 2019, Green Day’s third album and major label debut, 1994’s Dookie, turns 25 years old. Soak that up for a second. The album that brought us hits and MTV staples like “Basket Case” and “Longview” – the album that kick-started the band’s long, successful career – is a quarter-century old.
There are 14 tracks on the LP, mixing pop songcraft with punk fury and angst in varying degrees. So, we set out to rank them. Here’s our take.
Sure, it’s the worst song on Dookie. But that means it’d be one of the best songs on 99.9 percent of the albums released since. It slides into the band’s formula but does nothing to really distinguish itself beyond that. Still, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong is pissed off, per usual: “I don't know you but I think I hate you / You're the reason for my misery / Strange, how you've become my biggest enemy / And I've never even seen your face.” Harsh, bro.
13. "Having a Blast"
Another charging slap of bass, drums, distorted guitar and Armstrong’s knack for melody, especially on the front end of the chorus: “Well, no one is getting out alive,” he sings, raising his voice to add a sugary sweet coating to an otherwise morose message. “This time I've really lost my mind and I don't care / So close your eyes and kiss yourself goodbye / And think about the times you spent and what they've meant / To me it's nothing.” Having a blast, indeed.
The album opener certainly sets the aggressive, yet melodic, tone here with blasting power chords and Tre Cool’s warp-speed drum fills. Lyrically, it’s a mission statement for much of the album’s themes of youthful angst against the dead-eyed masses: “I'm not growing up / I'm just burning out / And I stepped in line / To walk amongst the dead.”
11. "Emenius Sleepus"
At this point, the punk sound starts to blend together, where as the best songs on Dookie stand out. Here, Armstrong logs his disgust with an old acquaintance: “How have I been how have you been /It's been so long / What have you done with all your time / And what went wrong / I knew you back when / And you, you knew me / And now I think you're sick / I want to go home.” Burn!
10. "Sassafras Roots"
It’s a pedal-to-the-medal punk jam with Armstrong longing for another wastrel, just like him: “Well, I'm a waste like you / With nothing else to do / May I waste your time, too?” The vocal melody is another unforgettable Armstrong snarl.
9. "Pulling Teeth"
Another shining example of Green Day’s knack of earworm vocal melodies and songcraft. Again, Armstrong – who was on again and off again with his then girl (and now wife) – sings about a dysfunctional relationship: “I'm all busted up / Broken bones and nasty cuts / Accidents will happen / But this time I can't get up / She comes to check on me / Making sure I'm on my knees / After all she's the one / Who put me in this state.”
8. "Welcome to Paradise"
This gritty and bombastic jam was originally featured on the band’s second studio album, Kerplunk. But producer Rob Cavallo saw its potential and had the band re-record it. It’s Armstrong’s letter to his mom about his insecurity about moving out on his own, then finding paradise in the punk scene in Oakland, where he lived with other misfits, artists and bums in an abandoned warehouse.“Wellllcommmmmmeeeeee to Paradise!!!”
7. "In the End"
Cool’s clacking drum stick count off sends this one speeding out the starting gate. It’s melodic punk rock played fast, and in just one minute and 46 seconds, Armstrong froths and spits about his mother’s relationship with his step dad. And he won’t be there waiting when their relationship goes south. “All brawn and no brains / And all those nice things / And you finally got what you want / Someone to look good with / And light your cigarette.” Then he sees the light: “I figured out what you're all about / And I don't think I like what I see / So I hope I won't be there in the end / If you come around.”
6. "Basket Case"
It’s Armstrong’s ode to his bothered mental condition. “Sometimes I give myself the creeps,” he sings over a cascading power chord riff. “Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me / It all keeps adding up / I think I'm cracking up / Am I just paranoid? / Or am I just stoned?” It resonated with millions of kids, who battled with the same issues, and it’s wrapped in a careening punk fury.
Like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before it, the debut single from Dookie captured the hearts and minds of ‘90s disaffected youth with its lyrics of boredom – the tune is basically about a day spent at home smoking weed and masturbating, watching the phone “but no one is calling.” The song was the band's first single to top the Mainstream Rock Songs chart in the U.S., and its music video – with a raging Armstrong ripping apart his living room -- received constant rotation on MTV and helped break the trio into the mainstream. “Bite my lip and close my eyes / Take me away to paradise I'm so damn bored, I'm going blind” – it’s a lyric countless music fans will remember line for line, forever.
Again, the loud-soft dynamics prevail. A lo-fi acoustic ditty about nuking bridges erupts in a fuzz-toned fury: “I've had this burning in my gut now for so long / My belly's aching now to say / Stuck down in a rut…” Then BOOM. “You're just / A fuck / I can't explain it 'cause I think you suck / I'm taking pride / In telling you to fuck off and die.” You tell ‘em, Billie.
The loud-soft dynamic is used to dramatic effect here. Armstrong opens the track to a rollicking bass riff, before exploding with shrapnel guitars. And the sing-songy lyrics address a young woman sticking it to the man: “Are you locked up in a world that's been planned out for you?” Armstrong snarls. “Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?”
2. "When I Come Around"
It’s Green Day going classic rock with a riff that’s hyper distinct and explodes on arrival. It’s an absolute earworm. And remember that Woodstock performance? As the mud flies and fans mosh and crowd surf, Armstrong, drummer Tre Cool, and bassist Mike Dirnt dished up this unforgettable punk anthem to the masses, in one of the most memorable rock moments from the mid ‘90s. Released as the fourth Dookie single, it became the band’s most popular radio single to date, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was omnipresent, also topping Billboard's Alternative Songs chart for a record seven weeks and reaching No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
1. "Coming Clean"
We know what you’re thinking: How the hell isn’t one of this album’s hit singles in the No. 1 spot? But “Coming Clean” best represents the sound and spirit of the album. It’s poppy and simple, a la Beatles-esque songcraft from the early ‘60s, but bombastic and in your face and just alive. It’s gritty and snarling, and hits the theme on nose: “Seventeen and strung out on confusion,” Armstrong wails. “Trapped inside a roll of disillusion / I found out what it takes to be a man / Now mom and dad will never understand.” It would prove to be a blueprint for much of Green Day’s future releases.