Green Day
International Superhits!
(Warner Bros. 48145)

It must be the month of the benevolent Hot Potato, as for once I find myself reviewing something for which I have some actual affinity. Though I must acknowledge a slight bit of dread at tackling a Green Day cd, that has much more to do with my desire to pretend that the 90s didn't happen than with the band or their music.

Green Day received a lot of inaccurate scorn for "selling out" when they jumped ship from Lookout! to Warner Bros, and even more for spawning a whole new generation of mediocre punk-pop bands. Both claims are unfair – I particularly object to the idea that there is some supposed "integrity" in not pursuing the big dollar if the opportunity arises. Should these guys have kept up their sleeping-in-the-van, making-$50-a-gig lifestyle forever? "Integrity" is the greatest fallacy in music criticism, and especially in Green Day's case, these guys had the songs, and nothing changed when they went major except that their records started to sound a whole lot better.

Billie Joe Armstrong is certainly one of the top songwriters of his generation, and the band was a perfect vehicle for his brand of classic power punk. At their best, Green Day was miles ahead of other bands of their day in terms of hooks, and they maintained consistent quality for a good deal longer than they ought to have. Connoisseurs may point to, like, The Mr. T Experience as being the "real deal" for great snot-pop songs, but there's a reason those guys didn't attain the success that Green Day did: song for song, they just didn't deliver as well.

All that said, it would be hard for me to add any given Green Day disc to my collection, not least for fear of tainting my assortment with any of the 90's biggest sell-back titles … who wants their collection to look like the back bays at Disc Recyclery, you know? I mean, Dookie is almost certainly a great cd, but I just … couldn't.

So International Superhits! comes in handy. It's easy to justify a solid best-of for any band you might want to dismiss as a "guilty pleasure" when grilled by your hipper-than-thou friends. "Uh, well, I just got that for a couple songs, I don't actually like Green Day." Etc.

But listening, how could you not admit you do, in fact, like Green Day? These are some great singles, and I am frankly surprised at how many of the 21 tracks I know well, and still love to hear. "Basket Case" may well be the best single of its decade, a perfect blast of melody, attitude, and tightly controlled energy. "When I Come Around" is nearly as good, and "She" (which I'd forgotten, but hearing it again, found just brilliant) is a great argument for why Green Day rose to the top while others failed … their lesser songs were better than most similar bands' best.

I never cared much for "Longview," and still don't, though it occured to me just now that this is the first time I've heard the unedited version. Kind of anticlimactic to finally hear the unobscured swearing. "Welcome to Paradise" is undoubtedly great live, but I don't have enough teenage punkishness left in me to get much out of it now.

Another neglected one is "J.A.R.," a non-album single from the Angus soundtrack. (Angus?) The Insomniac singles are samey, finding the attitude taking over the melodies, but they still work as solid punk-pop. Nimrod, too, was apparently more of the same, though "Good Riddance" was a bold move. Not that I especially like to listen to it, as it was used in virtually every movie and season finale for at least a year after its release. Great song, though.

The 2000 album Warning found Green Day in a much more classic punk vein, with the melodies returning full force. These singles ("Minority," "Waiting," and "Warning" especially) are kind of like mid-period Buzzcocks. "Macy's Day Parade," the last single, is one of Armstrong's best – a sad, stoic, acoustic thing that shows more emotion than ever before.

Two new tracks open the disc up, nothing especially great, though "Poprocks & Coke" builds on the "Macy's" direction, indicating this band might be discovering some new things ten years on, older and fatter though they may be. That's inspiring. Maybe there is life after the 90s after all.

Review by La Fée