At some point in 1994, people got it into their heads that grunge just wasn’t enough to satisfy their alternative hunger. Bands like Offspring and Green Day brought punk rock into the mainstream and Green Day’s major label debut, Dookie, earned the band a spot in the ten-million-plus club. Even more surprising is the fact that both bands have survived the death of the alternative movement. Green Day, made up of Billie Joe, Tre Cool and Mike Drint, found its biggest success in 1998 with the uncharacteristically acoustic “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life).” Warning is the band’s first new album since that folky surprise hit, and while the disc is much lighter than their previous efforts, not one track attempts to recreate the success of “Good Riddance.” Doing so would have seemed only natural but Green Day had different ideas.
Warning is a collection of mature pop-punk with a tiny bit of new wave added into the mix. “Church on Sundays” rocks, but it shows the band’s constantly evolving pop sensibilities. “Waiting” borrows the melody from Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” and it’s instantly memorable. Billie Joe’s lyrics, like always, are socially insightful and simple (“Get your philosophy from a bumper sticker”). “Deadbeat Holiday” is hopelessly existential, if not fatalistic: “Philosophy’s a liar if your home is your headstone/‘Icon’ is the last chance for hope/When there’s no such thing as heroes.” The bouncy “Blood Sex & Booze” delves head-on into the mind of a sadomasochist: “The pain she puts me through is what I need/So make it bleed.”
The offbeat “Misery” is reminiscent of the Doors’s “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” featuring mariachi brass, acoustic guitar, strings and accordion. The song traces a slew of miserable characters across the globe, eventually interweaving their stories. “Misery” is a bold musical move for the band, yet it fits nicely between the folk-pop of “Macy’s Day Parade” and the harmonica-infused “Hold On.” The album’s first single, “Minority,” preserves some of the indigenous ethics of punk rock (“Down with the moral majority/‘Cause I want to be the minority”). Lyrically, the song is a reminder of the youthful mentality of Green Day’s early work while maintaining their newer folk sound.
While the band is learning how to grow older gracefully, Warning misses some of the youthful vigor of Dookie and the exciting rebellion that punk once brought to the mainstream. The album displays just how well Green Day can construct pop songs, but it also shows that their relevance might be waning in spite of their longevity.