Green Day's Dookie
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Green Day couldn't have had a blockbuster without Nirvana, but Dookie wound up being nearly as revolutionary as Nevermind, sending a wave of imitators up the charts and setting the tone for the mainstream rock of the mid-'90s. Like Nevermind, this was accidental success, the sound of a promising underground group suddenly hitting its stride just as they got their first professional, big-budget, big-label production. Really, that's where the similarities end, since if Nirvana were indebted to the weirdness of indie rock, Green Day were straight-ahead punk revivalists through and through. They were products of the underground pop scene kept alive by such protagonists as All, yet what they really loved was the original punk, particularly such British punkers as the Jam and Buzzcocks. On their first couple records, they showed promise, but with Dookie, they delivered a record that found Billie Joe Armstrong bursting into full flower as a songwriter, spitting out melodic ravers that could have comfortable sat alongside Singles Going Steady, but infused with an ironic self-loathing popularized by Nirvana, whose clean sound on Nevermind is also emulated here. Where Nirvana had weight, Green Day are deliberately adolescent here, treating nearly everything as joke and having as much fun as snotty punkers should. They demonstrate a bit of depth with "When I Come Around," but that just varies the pace slightly, since the key to this is their flippant, infectious attitude -- something they maintain throughout the record, making Dookie a stellar piece of modern punk that many tried to emulate but nobody bettered.
Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's remarkable that Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill struck a sympathetic chord with millions of listeners, because it's so doggedly, determinedly insular. This, after all, plays like an emotional purging, prompted by a bitter relationship -- and, according to all the lyrical hints, that's likely a record executive who took advantage of a young Alanis. She never disguises her outright rage and disgust, whether it's the vengeful wrath of "You Oughta Know" or asking him "you scan the credits for your name and wonder why it's not there." This is such insider information that it's hard to believe that millions of listeners not just bought it, but embraced it, turning Alanis Morisette into a mid-'90s phenomenon. Perhaps it was the individuality that made it appealing, since its specificity lent it genuineness -- and, even if this is clearly an attempt to embrace the "women in rock" movement in alterna-rock, Morissette's intentions are genuine. Often, it seems like Glen Ballard's pop inclinations fight against Alanis' exorcisms, as her bitter diary entries are given a pop gloss that gives them entry to the pop charts. What's all the more remarkable is that Alanis isn't a particularly good singer, stretching the limits of pitch and credibility with her octave-skipping caterwauling. At its core, this is the work of an ambitious but sophomoric 19-year-old, once burned by love, but still willing to open her heart a second time. All of this adds up to a record that's surprisingly effective, an utterly fascinating exploration of a young woman's psyche. As slick as the music is, the lyrics are unvarnished and Morissette unflinchingly explores emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them. This doesn't make Jagged Little Pill great, but it does make it a fascinating record, a phenomenon that's intensely personal.