Monday, 20 July 2020

1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours - Green Day Discography Review

I have always considered 39/Smooth (or 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours) to be Green Day’s weakest offering. I never hated the album but there were certain qualities of the album that made me consider it lesser than the other albums. However, this album has also been the album I listened to the least out of all of their albums and for this review, I listened to the album several times and tried to learn more about the album, the song meanings and the lyrical content as well as the instrumental qualities of each song. Also keep in mind, this is just my opinion and I don't claim to be an expert or a music critic.

This compilation album contains the earliest of Green Day’s material, namely 39/Smooth, the EPs Slappy and 1000 Hours and the song I Want To Be Alone. For the purposes of this review, I will discuss each song, detailing the lyrical content and musical qualities of the songs. In general, this album suffers from some lacking lyrical content and poor production quality but this can be overlooked due to this being their earliest material and the band being with the independent record label Lookout Records. Additionally, this material was recorded before Tré Cool joined the band and John Kiffmeyer’s drumming on this album is definitely lacking. Billie Joe and Mike do a great job at playing their respective instruments on this album despite it being their earliest recordings.

Lyrical Content

The lyrical content is quite poor when compared to most Green Day albums. A lot of the songs are about girls or “love” (literally more than half the compilation) and these love songs are not particularly well written and the album gets repetitive with this lyrical content. There are multiple mentions of being friends with girls on this album, evidently Billie appears to have some fear of the friendzone on this album. There are also multiple mentions of girls that already have boyfriends too. This repetitive nature of these songs does get old after a while. Some songs that are not about girls also have references to girls (i.e. Disappearing Boy). The songs about love and girls get particularly tiresome towards the end with the 1000 Hours EP, which features four songs, all of which are about girls.

There is some cheesiness to all the songs on the 1000 Hours EP; 1000 Hours, Dry Ice, Only of You, The One I Want. But I think its title track is the biggest culprit of this. The song 1000 Hours is a song which I find especially cheesy with the lyrical content and overall one of Green Day’s weakest songs to date. In the second verse, Billie also tries to add 1000 Hours into the lyrics even though it obviously doesn’t fit, in the line “Oh, so softly, hands flowing down my back, 1,000 hours, I’ll never leave”.
There are other songs which aren’t about girls. Songs like Disappearing Boy and I Want To Be Alone deal with being an introvert, but neither of these songs really say anything interesting. The latter song in particular as its lyrics consists of a single verse and chorus repeated three times. It’s also worth noting the irony of the song I Want To Be Alone considering most of the album is talking about how Billie wants to be with a girl i.e. the opposite of being alone. I Was There and 16 are more reflective, looking back at the past of the writers. The former of those songs, I Was There was written by Kiffmeyer rather than Armstrong. These songs can be seen as relatable as everybody reflects on their past but neither songs say anything meaningful or interesting. The song Rest appears to be about some “angel” but the lyrics again don’t say anything interesting either and I wouldn’t be surprised if this angel refers to some girl.

Some of the more interesting tracks lyrically are probably 409 in Your Coffeemaker, Green Day and Why Do You Want Him. In 409, Billie talks about his experiences in school and dropping out and points out some possible flaws in the education system including the idea that teens are brainwashed to think they’re lazy. Why Do You Want Him seems to be about his mother dating another man after the death of Billie’s father. The song Green Day is about smoking weed, something I’ve never done, but it seems that Billie does a good job at describing what I’d imagine it’s like to be high and this song does have glimpses of the genius lyric writing that we would eventually see in Billie.
The best song lyrically in this album would probably be Road to Acceptance. This is a song about acceptance, confusion, adolescence and adolescent confusion. Here, we see that Billie has always been a progressive person, an anti-racist person as he calls out the “blind hatred” he sees around him and says that we all “feel the same pain”. Billie obviously had a lot more growing to do in terms of lyric writing but we see glimpses of the Billie that we’d see in later albums

Musical Quality

Even though this album isn’t his best performance, Mike has some great basslines on here and evidently, has been a great bassist since the early days. Some of his highlights include the track Green Day, Road to Acceptance and Knowledge but his bass is audible and nice to listen to throughout the whole album. Billie’s guitar work is also great here, with some great guitar solos throughout, even on some of the lesser tracks. It could be argued that The Judge’s Daughter is Billie’s best guitar solo in his career. As noted before, Kiffmeyer’s drumming isn’t stellar and there are some flaws in the instrumentation on this album, compared to their other albums, largely because of the production of the album. But overall the band works well together on this album and these flaws can be ignored partially.

Billie’s vocals sound different in this album than on their later albums. This can partially be explained by the low production of this album. But even when you compare his vocals between this and Kerplunk, which also suffered from the lack of major label production, you can notice some difference between the two albums. Billie’s vocals here aren’t the same as what you’d expect after hearing all of Green Day’s greatest hits but despite being different, they’re not bad here at all. And this album is worth a listen every once in a while to hear a different kind of Billie. Mike’s backing vocals also appear to be a lot louder at parts on this album to the point where he feels more like a co-lead vocalist at points on the album. The song Rest shows great vocal harmonisation between Billie and Mike. Road to Acceptance is also interesting vocally, with a unique vocal delivery from Billie on the opening verses. Why Do You Want Him is a track which fall flat vocally compared to most of the other tracks.

Some of the songs on this thing are fan favourites and I never really understood why. At the Library and Going to Pasalacqua are considered by many to be the best of the album. I don’t really know why. They’re decent tracks, definitely not the worst but my favourites on this compilation are often tracks which get ignored and some tracks I didn’t appreciate until recently when I started listening to the album for this review. Rest is also a song which I often see in “Worst Green Day songs” lists and again, I don’t know why. It’s not one of their best songs, not even one of their better slower tracks, but I’d consider it a decent highlight of the album.

I have always considered this album to be my least favourite. But after going more in depth on the album and listening to it multiple times, and considering their most recent album (spoilers), I’m much less confident in saying that this is my least favourite of Green Day’s album. Yes, there are a number of flaws but many of these flaws were out of the band’s control or can be attributed to the band’s youth. They were young, not yet the best at their respective roles in the band and they lacked legendary drummer Tré Cool. The numerous cheesy songs about girls and love can be overlooked and even some of the worse songs on the album have pretty good qualities, including good guitar solos from Billie. The compilation is quite long, at 56 minutes and you may not want to listen to the entire thing altogether. You could listen to the 39/Smooth album on its own or the two EPs together. Even though it has its flaws, there aren’t any tracks on here that I would say to outright avoid and there are some genuinely pretty great tracks. Some of my favourites include Road to Acceptance, Green Day, Disappearing Boy, Rest, Knowledge and Paper Lanterns. 1000 Hours is probably the weakest part of the compilation (despite having some great solos) but there’s no tracks here that I’d consider poor outside of maybe the track 1000 Hours. Previously, I would’ve considered this album to be about a 6/10. After exploring this album more thoroughly for this review, I think I would probably consider this album to be a 7/10. There are many aspects of this album I previously didn’t appreciate and despite a few glaring issues, it’s definitely worth at least a listen. I wouldn't recommend starting with this album if you're new to Green Day.

Stay tuned for the next discography review on Kerplunk! Follow me on twitter for updates on the blog

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