Way before Strokes-style retro-rock, way before electroclash (the fanciful way of saying retro-electro), Green Day was pumping out gloriously monotonous throwbacks in relative oblivion in early-’90s Berkeley, California. Lookout!’s newly remastered version of Green Day’s debut full-length, originally released in1991, contains the same tracks appearing on the original (all 1989-1990) with a generous dose of silly band photos in prime skater dude mode, concert flyers, acoustic versions of songs performed for University of Minnesota’s radio station, and some low-quality live performance video.
Once upon a time the gratifyingly tonal major chords of “Going to Pasalacqua” and “Disappearing Boy” drowned out the racket of me and my high school girlfriend making out, so it’s hard to analyze 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours with total objectivity. But juvenile make-out sessions aside, I don’t really think my opinion of early Green Day would be any different. 1,039 pursues the identical sound on the band’s next two albums, 1992’s Kerplunk and 1994’s Dookie, and the story becomes familiar from then on.
Like Dookie, this is very catchy Cali punk, with on-key lyrics belted out by ye ole Billie Joe on relevant teenage topics such as the elusive girl from the other side of the tracks, general social awkwardness and the uncertain future. While other early ’90s “alternative” stalwarts like beflanneled goatee rockers Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots cranked out dim, yet contradictorily pretentious guitar rock, Green Day had no intellectual ambitions circa 1990, which is very much to their advantage. Better to self-deprecatingly admit your own stupidity than to hide it.
Yup, this whole album (which compiles a mini-album, two EPs, and a compilation track) all sounds exactly the same and it all sounds like the Buzzcocks. And after 19 songs, the point is very much gotten. But there’s something immanently defensible about these songs’ completely unpoliticized, D-U-M-B simplicity. And there’s something refreshing about the fact that Green Day’s sound as teenage boys is exactly the sound would later take them all the way. So drop your guard and your postmodern pretensions when listening to 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours — this is the first of three uniformly infectious records by what should be considered the best boy band of all time.