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15 years ago, Green Day tried to balance social awareness with pop-punk exuberance

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By all accounts, Green Day’s sixth studio album, Warning, which was released 15 year ago today, had a tough genesis. Marc Spitz’s Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, And Music Of Green Day describes a band caught up in changing musical trends who was also trying to figure out how to stay relevant to an aging fanbase. “They were definitely at a very big crossroads,” said John Lucasey, who owned the studio where Warning was recorded, in the book. Musically, things weren’t easy either: Initial sessions with producer Scott Litt (R.E.M.) didn’t yield the songs they’d hoped, leading the band members to self-produce the album and bring back long-time collaborator Rob Cavallo as executive producer.

Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong eventually found creative inspiration from Bob Dylan’s 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home, and wrote a whole batch of socially conscious, politically tinged songs. The results sounded like Gilman Street pop-punk and class of ’77-era punk filtered through the lens of British Invasion rock and earnest ’60s folk—from the Kinks-esque “Deadbeat Holiday” to the harmonica-driven, shambling pick-me-up “Hold On” and the strident jangle-pop of “Church On Sunday.”

Warning didn’t exactly set the world on fire, at least commercially: RIAA stats show the record went gold two months later, but still isn’t platinum. Yet going by the explosive “Live Without Warning,” an MTV-aired Green Day concert special to promote the album, the band wasn’t deterred. New songs “Minority” and “Church On Sunday” mesh seamlessly with older hits “Geek Stink Breath” and “Longview,” inspiring delirium within the pogoing and moshing crowd, while a particularly surging version of Dookie’s “Welcome To Paradise” fomented mass chaos and crowdsurfers galore. Other live shows from this era—including the band’s acoustic appearance at the 2000 Bridge School Benefit—show similar verve and energy.


As the ’00s revved up, Green Day would face more turmoil (and more creative fracturing), before amassing a whole new audience and achieving massive global stardom thanks to 2004’s American Idiot. However, Warning ended up as the perfect bridge between bratty ’90s Green Day and mature, political rabble-rousing ’00s Green Day.