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Triple Take: Green Day's 'Nimrod'

Album reviews are the bread and butter of music criticism. However, often so much of a review is spent talking about the musician, or the circumstances of the recording process that the actual songs on the record don’t get the discussion they deserve. Triple Take examines a string of 3 songs on an album, how they fit together, and how they fit on the record as a whole.

The year is 1997. It’s been four years since Green Day burst onto the scene with Dookie. American Idiot, the bands transformational album is still seven years down the road. In between these two albums were a myriad of albums that were successful but in hindsight, overlooked. The one that stands out is 1997′s Nimrod for its distinction as the last commercially viable punk album.

You could never have had the foresight to understand Nimrod’s impact on the music world in 1997. The culture of grunge was all but dried up and spurred by the aforementioned American Idiot, the emo and alternative genres would boom just a decade later. There are three songs that stand apart on Nimrod, helping to define it as not only Green Day’s farewell to a genre but one of the most underrated albums in their legacy.

The opening track on Nimrod is “Nice Guys Finish Last” which opens the way only a great punk song does. A driving snare drum paired with a muted, distorted guitar help count off not only the song but the album. It’s fast but never out of control, and as the guitar drops out, it’s a bass and drum duet behind the lyrics “…sometimes you’re at your best, when you feel the worst, do you feel washed up, like piss going down the drain.”

A highly distorted guitar returns just before the chorus hits. Led by a smooth drum fill, the two part chorus is Green Day at their best. Singing about the worst parts of growing up in a world that exists somewhere between the lower class and the lower middle class in California. Of course by this time, the band was highly successful and had put the Oakland slums behind them. Still, this harkening back to a darker time was their way of clinging to their punk roots.

“Hitchin’ A Ride” could be considered the first song that began their transition into the world of alternative. The opening is simple but missing a key Green Day ingredient. Instead of brash guitar and drums, “Hitchin’ A Ride” opens with a violin, a precursor to the highly produced sound that they would stumble on in American Idiot.

The verse, similar to “Nice Guys Finish Last,” features only bass and drums. Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice is of course the focal point. There is a power to the drums that is rarely heard on Green Day albums recorded before this point. It just gives you the feeling that the band is not longer recording in basements or writing draped over a toilet. Surprise, surprise. They aren’t. By this point in their careers, they had sold millions of records worldwide and were on the cusp of leaving the punk world behind. This song is truly their first step in that direction.

It is also worth noting that “Hitchin’ A Ride” was the first single on Nimrod. Many years from now, it won’t be “Hitchin’ A Ride,” “Redundant” or “Nice Guys Finish Last,” the first, third and fourth singles that the album will be remembered for. Instead, it will be track 17 titled “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”

What is interesting about Nimrod is that it flip flops between the future and the past. There are plenty of songs that look towards the bands bright future but just as many that sound like their early recordings on Dookie. The third track on the album fits that mold and is aptly titled “The Grouch.”

Aside from a four bar guitar solo towards the end, this song is pure punk, written about the trials and tribulations of getting older and led by the simple three piece setup the band was known for. There’s no extra production and it even has an audible drum stick count in.

There are plenty of songs that come later in this album that fit both the new and old mold but these three just encompass what Green Day wanted to say and sound like in 1997. It will never be the album they are remembered for (despite producing the most popular song) but it will be the album that they used as a fond farewell to punk.

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