Green Day rose to fame on the back of hit singles like “Longview” and “When I Come Around.” The group maintained relevancy with radio singles like “Brain Stew” and “Minority.” Hell, “American Idiot” was the smash single that vaulted the band back into the public consciousness. Point being, hit singles have certainly done their share in paving Green Day’s path from Oakland upstarts to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Many of these were featured last year when the Houston Press broke down the band’s best songs of all time a few days before the release of the group's latest album, Revolution Radio. That said, just because some of Green Day’s most famous tracks are of the radio-hit variety doesn’t mean their best songs have all gone to radio. In fact, it could be argued that most of the group’s deep cuts and non-singles outpaced their radio counterparts. Take these ten tracks, for instance, which are timely considering the band headlines Toyota Center (with Against Me!) on Sunday night.
10. "Ordinary World"
Somewhat cheating a bit on this one, in that this track from the band’s latest, Revolution Radio, may very well find its way to rock radio before all is said and done. In fact, with its acoustic sound and understated tone, “Ordinary World” may end up being a lite version of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” The song was even featured prominently in a 2016 Billie Joe Armstrong film of the same name.
Jesus Christ, this is one of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear, particularly for those in their thirties and forties whose once-bright future has now become a rather common and complacent present. The lyrics “future just ain’t what it used to be” sorta drive that point home. That the song has some major suicidal overtones only furthers the notion that this is one of the darkest (and best) songs Billie Joe and crew ever wrote.
8. ‘CHURCH ON SUNDAY’
Green Day was on to something with the release of Warning in 2000. The album was another attempt at transitioning the band from snot-nosed punks to a more mature rock outfit. It ended up being a more training-wheels version of American Idiot, which arrived four years later and far outshone its predecessor, but Warning did give us “Church on Sunday.” The track, which details infidelity and its impact on relationships, remains a snippet of what Green Day was to become after this album was released.
7. "Give Me Novocaine"
American Idiot, on the whole, cemented Green Day’s status as a band that could do more than just crank up the pop-punk. This song proved the trio could do so in a poignant way. The concept album was political as all hell, as evidenced by this track, in which Armstrong basically pleads for someone to tell him everything is going to be all right in the end.
6. "Sassafras Roots"
Moment of total honesty: I’m not entirely sure what this track – from the band’s 1994 breakthrough, Dookie – is about. That said, in the mid-'90s, no one could craft a pop-punk hook quite like Billie Joe Armstrong, as evidenced by this catchy little track that will climb in your head and stay there.
5. ‘THE STATIC AGE’
Green Day’s follow-up to American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, aimed to keep the politics-driven momentum going for the trio. It worked to an extent; the album debuted at No. 1 and eventually went platinum. That said, many found it a disappointment when compared to its predecessor, and those critics were right...for the most part. “The Static Age” is a blueprint for how to crank out a political rock tune with the volume set to 11.
4. "Westbound Sign"
Armstrong was always given proper credit for writing about teenage angst and political rebellion, but dude never quite got his due as a breakup songwriter. Case in point, this track from Insomniac, which — like 21st Century Breakdown — is a really good album that catches flak because it isn’t as good as its predecessor. “Westbound Sign” is Green Day at its finest: succinct, catchy and capable of eliciting emotion. When they’re on, no one does it better.
“It’s all I’ve got, and I am giving it to you.” If you haven’t thought something along those lines at some point in life, then you haven’t been in love. Green Day nails yet another breakup track, this time on Nimrod, a sort-of forgotten album in the band’s canon. It’s mostly viewed as an album that had "Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)" and fell between the immaturity of Dookie and the masterpiece that was American Idiot. In actuality, it was the album that bridged the gap; Nimrod was chock-full of songs like “Scattered,” which signaled a mature turning point for the band. Speaking of which…
2. "Walking Alone"
Ever felt like the world was passing you by, like you were stuck in neutral while those around you moved on? Well, you ain’t alone, as evidenced by this masterful track, also from the underrated Nimrod. It’s a tale of regret, of recognizing one’s weaknesses but being unable to overcome them. It’s a tragic song. It’s a great song.
Are you the type who still recalls the “one that got away”? Are you prone to tears and sadness when those recollections are paired to music? Yeah, then best to avoid this heart-wrenching song altogether.
Green Day and special guests Against Me! perform Sunday, March 5 at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. Doors open at 6 p.m.
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