Friday, 20 November 2020

Kerplunk - Green Day Discography Review

Apologies for the long gap between this and the last Green Day review and from my blog in general. Back in July, I reviewed the 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation as the beginning of my series of album reviews of Green Day’s discography. You can read that review [here] if you haven’t read it yet. In this entry, I will review their second album Kerplunk! Like 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, I always consider this one of their lesser works and thus, I didn’t listen to this album as much as I did a lot of other Green Day albums. For the purposes of this review, I listened to this album multiple times in order to learn more about the different songs on this album; from the lyrical content to the instrumentation and the vocals. However, I am familiar with the album after years of listening to the band’s discography. 

If you want to read my review of 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours before you read this one, you can click here

In this review, I will discuss all the songs that appear on the album and I will also briefly touch on the Sweet Children EP which was originally released prior to this album in 1990 but was included on the CD and cassette versions of the album. Previously, I considered this album to be similar to the previous material from the band but of a higher quality and closer to the rest of the songs that the band would release later on, and while that opinion remains somewhat accurate to what I think now, I do have some new thoughts on the album. Once again, I will be reviewing this album based on its lyrical content and musical quality of each song.

Lyrical Content

Billie Joe’s lyric writing qualities improved on this album. Billie wrote a lot less love songs about girls on this record and more about growing up and viewing life from a different perspective and these songs are written more maturely than songs like 16 from the previous album. These tracks include the likes One of My Lies where Billie reflects on his changing view of life as he becomes older and realises that the world doesn’t circle around him and, Android where Billie ponders about the future & whether he will still be around and how time “passes by like lightning”.

The lyric writing on Christie Road feels nostalgic, as Billie writes about this place where he would go to relax and forget about his worries. Welcome to Paradise also sees Billie writing about his difficulties in moving out and living alone.

There are still a few love songs in this album but these tracks are fewer, which results in the lyrical content feeling less repetitive, and better written. Tracks like 2000 Light Years Away and 80 are both about his now-wife Adrienne and are closer in sound and lyrical content to the type of Green Day love songs that we would hear later on in their career. One for the Razorbacks is another well written love song about a different girl. Words I Might Have Ate is another love song, though it’s not clear who the song is about and closes out the album. A song like Private Ale sounds more reminiscent of the love songs from 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, not as well written. Billie’s writing isn’t at its best here, but it’s certainly taken a step up from his previous works.

Musical Quality

The musical quality of this album generally is better than on the previous compilation. Mike’s bass work is less sloppy and this album has some really great standout basslines. John Kiffmeyer has also been replaced by Tré Cool, who would remain with the band until present. Tré Cool has some great work on this album. Billie Joe also has some good standout moments with his guitar playing, but this album has far less guitar solos that standout than 1,039.

Who Wrote Holden Caulfield and 80 are solid examples of good catchy Green Day songs where the band works well together. The guitar, bass and drum work are all great in these songs. Mike has some particular highlights on the album as well such as 80 and No One Knows. One of Mike’s most well known basslines comes from this album too; Welcome to Paradise which features a brilliant bass solo from Mike, which would also make an appearance on Dookie. The bass on Dominated Love Slave also sounds quite nice despite being a weak track overall.

Billie does have some notable highlights too which include guitar solos on One for the Razorbacks, Dominated Love Slave and Who Wrote Holden Caulfield. Other guitar highlights include One of My Lies and 80. The acoustic guitar on Words I Might Have Ate is also a nice change of pace from the rest of the album.

Tré’s first appearance isn’t his best as he still needs to find his place in the band at this stage but he does have some excellent highlights on this idea including Who Wrote Holden Caulfield, One of My Lies and 80 and shows that he’s a better fit for the band than John Kiffmeyer from the previous releases. The instrumentation overall on the album is pretty great, even outside of the highlights mentioned. This album contains some of their catchiest songs to date including 2000 Light Years Away; a song that sounds like it could’ve been a hit single if it were released on Dookie as well as Who Wrote Holden Caulfield which contains one of the hookiest choruses Green Day has released. Welcome to Paradise is also well known as being one of Green Day’s biggest hits; although it’s the version that appears on Dookie that is most well-known. The version of the song that appears on Kerplunk isn’t quite as good, suffering from the lower production of the album and a weaker vocal delivery from Billie. Christie Road is another favourite where the band works well together. The bridge and outro of that song is also a really nice highlight of the song.

Weaker tracks on the album include Private Ale, which seems more lacking in both instrumentation and lyrical content, as well as Dominated Love Slave which despite being a more comedic track doesn’t sound too good due to Tré’s vocals which sound a fair bit weaker than Billie’s vocals throughout the rest of the album. Additionally, the humour of the track wares off after a couple listens resulting in the track lacking replayability, and you’ll likely find yourself skipping the track. Words I Might Have Ate was a track that I used to consider a favourite from this album; however now I don’t consider it a favourite but more of the middle of the road tracks. Definitely not a bad track however, as it is quite catchy and nice to listen to, and a nice track to close the record with.

Billie’s vocals on this album are still not quite at the level of later releases. Again, like with their prior release, the production can explain this partially. Despite this, the vocals here are definitely not bad; far from it and the vocals here are arguably better than on 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. Billie’s vocals along with Mike’s backing vocals also work well on this album; particularly on the track No One Knows.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d give Kerplunk a 7/10. Like its predecessor, it has some glaring issues and while a year ago, I would’ve said Kerplunk is the better album, at present I would say there’s little difference between the two releases. Despite some better playing from the band overall; the songs aren’t that much better to listen to as a whole and my opinion on this album hasn’t really changed all that much at all; especially compared to 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours where my opinion has changed quite a bit more. I would be more confident in saying Kerplunk is the better release if it weren’t for a couple of weaker tracks. But just like with the prior release, I can say that the production issues and the fact that the band are still young and inexperienced are factors that account for the album’s rough edges. Just like the last release, I wouldn't recommend starting with this album if you're new to Green Day.

Sweet Children EP

The EP Sweet Children is also something that I’d like to briefly discuss on this review; as I haven’t discussed it yet and the EP appears on the Kerplunk CD and cassette as bonus tracks; as well as on digital releases later on i.e. Spotify. This EP, originally released after 39/Smooth and the Slappy and 1000 Hours Eps but before the 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation; comprised of four tracks. The titular track; Sweet Children, Best Thing in Town, Strangeland and a cover of the song My Generation by The Who.

Sweet Children is a fairly average song. It’s below Green Day’s usual standard though at the time of release; it was around what you’d expect from them. Not a great track but not an awful track and has some catchiness to it. Best Thing in Town is also fairly average; though its guitar solo is a highlight. Strangeland is very similar sounding to the prior track and also has a good guitar solo too but I would say Strangeland is slightly weaker. This song’s vocals are also near inaudible, meaning I can’t understand the lyrics without looking them up. The lyrical content on these songs is also pretty uninteresting overall and the EP overall is one of the weakest parts of Green Day’s discography. The cover of My Generation isn’t much of a highlight either. I would give the EP a light 6/10. Not too much enjoyment to be had here but far from being unlistenable. 

Stay tuned for the next discography review on Dookie! Follow me on twitter for updates on the blog. Click here to read my previous review on 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

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