Nimrod is the fifth studio album by the American punk rock band Green Day, released on October 14, 1997 through Reprise Records. The group began work on the album in the wake of their cancellation of a European tour after the release of Insomniac (1995). Recorded at Conway Studios in Los Angeles, the album was written with the intent of creating solid songs as opposed to a cohesive album. As a result, Nimrod is noted for its musical diversity and experimentation, and contains elements of folk, surf rock, and ska. The lyrical themes discussed on the record include maturity, personal reflection, and fatherhood. Nimrod is the band's first experimental album.
The album peaked at number ten on the Billboard U.S. charts and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The record also was certified triple platinum in Australia and double platinum in Canada. Nimrod also received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Armstrong's songwriting on the record. The album yielded the acoustic hit "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)", which appeared at numerous pop culture events, including the series finale of the sitcom Seinfeld in 1998. To promote the album, Green Day embarked on an extensive touring schedule. Nimrod has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
In 1995, Green Day released Insomniac, which did not perform as well critically and commercially as the band's breakthrough major label debut Dookie (1994). Speaking of Insomniac, vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong noted, "It did a lot better than I thought it was going to do...From the sound of it, we knew it wasn't going to sell as much as Dookie." The group embarked on an extensive world tour to promote Insomniac in early 1996, which saw the band performing in sports arenas that contrasted with the small clubs the group was accustomed to playing. The members became increasingly uncomfortable with the level of stardom they had attained; Armstrong recalled, "We were becoming the things we hated, playing those big arenas. It was beginning to be not fun anymore."
Green Day also became homesick as touring forced the members to leave behind their families. The band eventually decided to cancel the late 1996 European leg of the Insomniac tour to take time off to spend at home. During this time, the band continued to write, and eventually completed over three dozen new songs by the beginning of 1997. Although the group's last effort with producer Rob Cavallo was considered a disappointment, the band did not contemplate choosing anyone else to work with on Nimrod, as the members viewed Cavallo as a "mentor".
Recording and production
The album was recorded at Conway Studios in Los Angeles, and the band stayed at the Sunset Marquis Hotel during the sessions.Nimrod took four months to record and, Armstrong partially attributed the lengthy recording time to spending "a little too much time" playing pool and foosball during the sessions. The recording schedule, which lasted from noon to two in the morning every day, became frustrating for the group members, who began drinking heavily. Bassist Mike Dirnt recalled, "One night one of us was walking down the halls knocking on people's doors while naked." Another incident involved drummer Tre Cool throwing his hotel room television set out of his window. Armstrong noted, "There was a lot of glass. You have to live that arrogant lifestyle every now and then." To keep the band focused, Cavallo enlisted his father and manager Pat Magnarella to supervise the group.
While working on Nimrod, Green Day explained to Cavallo their desire to create a more experimental album as the band had grown tired of its traditional three chord song structure. Armstrong drew inspiration from The Clash's landmark record London Calling, and referred to Nimrod as "the record I've wanted to make since the band started." The album was intended to break the constraints of typical punk rock music. To preserve the quality of his songwriting, Armstrong began writing each song on acoustic guitar, to which the rest of the band would later add heavier instrumentation and faster tempos. Green Day recorded around 30 songs for Nimrod and picked 18 of them for the record. Dirnt explained that the recording was much more loosely structured than previous albums, and that creating songs was the focus as opposed to making a cohesive record. He observed, "We've always screwed around with different types of music during our jams, but we'd say, 'OK let's stop and get back to the album.' This time we just let them come up."
Reprise Records president Howie Klein spent a lot of time in the studio with the band during recording, and recalled that, "What I realized immediately is that they had seemed to mature in their musical direction. It wasn't just more of the same. There was so much growth in the band." The musical maturation displayed on Nimrod was partially inspired by Bikini Kill's Reject All American (1996), which encouraged Armstrong to balance "rough punk rock songs" and "delicate pretty songs". Armstrong wrote "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" in 1990 and did not show the song to his bandmates until the Dookie recording sessions in 1993. During the sessions, the song was determined to be too different from the rest of the songs on Dookie, and producer Rob Cavallo was unsure of how to structure the recording. When the time came to record Nimrod, Armstrong decided to use the song, and Cavallo suggested they add strings to the track. He sent the band to play foosball in another room while he recorded the strings, which took "like fifteen, twenty minutes, maybe a half an hour at the most." Cavallo reflected on his decision to add the strings "I knew we had done the right thing. I knew it was a hit the second I heard it."
In addition to the strings on "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)", the music of Nimrod contains a variety of other instruments not featured on previous Green Day albums. "Walking Alone" features Armstrong playing the harmonica, despite the fact that he did not "know how to play it at all". "Hitchin' a Ride" opens with a Middle Eastern-inspired violin performed by Petra Haden of That Dog. The band invited Gabrial McNair and Stephen Bradley of No Doubt's horn section to play on the ska-influenced "King for a Day".
Music and lyrics
"King For A Day"
This ska-influenced song contains a horn section and has been compared to an "Oi! anthem" by Armstrong.
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
This track consists solely of vocals, guitar, and strings. The song has been referred to as a "pop-punk campfire singalong ballad" and differs from the band's more abrasive punk rock roots.
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Nimrod is more musically varied than previous Green Day albums. Armstrong noted that with the album, Green Day went down "different avenues," adding: "Each song has its own character and identity so we wanted to be able to bring that out as much as possible." "Nice Guys Finish Last" has been considered a song that "eases the transition" from Insomniac to Nimrod. Sandy Masuo of the Los Angeles Times likened "Worry Rock" to the music of Elvis Costello. "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" has been referred to as a "pop-punk campfire singalong ballad". After opening with Haden's violin solo, "Hitchin' a Ride" evolves into a bass-driven rock song with a "Stray Cats vibe". Cool referred to "Take Back" (on which Armstrong employs death metal-style vocals during the chorus) and "Platypus (I Hate You)" as "some of the most punk songs we've ever done". "Last Ride In" is a surf rock-influenced instrumental, and "King for a Day" is a ska punk song featuring a horn section. Armstrong compared the song to the Oi! genre, and noted "It would be funny for a bunch of macho fraternity guys to be singing along and, little do they know, the song's about being in drag." The "chiming" guitar riffs of "Redundant" have been compared to those of The Byrds.
Lyrically, Nimrod touches upon more reflective themes not present on earlier Green Day albums. Much of the album illustrates Armstrong's sentiments on growing up and his role as a husband and father. "The Grouch" centers on Armstrong's fears of "wasting away, getting fat, becoming impotent, and losing his ideals." On "Walking Alone", he reflects on old friends from his childhood, and notes that he is "too drunk to figure out they're fading away." Armstrong discusses the struggle to stay sober on "Hitchin' a Ride". "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" was inspired by Armstrong's failed relationship with a woman that ended when she joined the Peace Corps in 1990. The same woman is also the subject of "She" from Dookie, "Whatsername" from American Idiot (2004) and "Amanda" from ¡Tré!.
However, other songs contain subject matter and themes more typical of Green Day's previous work. Armstrong wrote "Nice Guys Finish Last" about the band's interactions with the band's lawyers and managers and how "everybody thinks they know what's best for you." "Jinx" contains self-deprecating lyrics characteristic of many of the band's songs, while "Prosthetic Head" has been referred to as a "typical ticked-off kiss-off". "King for a Day" tells the story of a cross-dresser. "Uptight" contains repeated mentions of suicide; Armstrong explained, "I think the word 'suicide' just sounded really good. And the line, 'I'm a son of a gun'. It made sense, but I can't really explain why it made sense. It just sort of does."
The album received generally positive reviews from critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic gave Nimrod three and a half stars out of five, calling it an "invigorating, if occasionally frustrating listen", and although he praised Armstrong's "gift for hooky, instantly memorable melodies", he noted that "the 18 tracks whip by at such a breakneck speed that it leaves you somewhat dazed." Greg Kot of Rolling Stone enjoyed the album's melodic nature as well as the "measure of sincerity" present in Armstrong's vocals. Kot appreciated the return of the band's "juvenile sense of humor" that he felt was lacking on Insomniac, and praised the musical diversity on the record, remarking, "This music is a long way from Green Day's apprenticeship at the Gilman Street punk clubs, in Berkeley, Calif. But now that the band has seen the world, it's only fitting that Green Day should finally make an album that sounds as if it has."
A group of editors writing for People also praised the record's "fresh and original" melodies and "quick-tempoed cool", adding, "Kudos to Green Day, young punk's reigning purists, for sticking with what they know best." Sandy Masuo of the Los Angeles Times enjoyed the "mature songwriting that really makes this album tick", noting that "Naturally, a couple of thrash 'n' bash hard-core paeans are included, but they're surrounded by songs that are surprisingly varied in character and grounded in a pop aesthetic that evokes a gaggle of great tunesmiths." Stephen Thompson of The A.V. Club wrote, "If Green Day still has a loyal following, its fans are bound to find something to like on Nimrod; for all the attempts at diversity, the record is packed with mile-wide hooks and sing-along anthems."
Nimrod debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200, selling 81,000 copies in its first week of release, and remained on the chart for 70 weeks. On March 16, 2000, Nimrod was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of over two million copies. In Canada, the album peaked at number four, remaining on the chart for four weeks. On July 6, 1998, the record was certified double platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 200,000 copies. In Australia, the album debuted at number twelve and later peaked at number three on the country's chart. The record was later certified triple platinum in Australia.
The Nimrod promotional tour began in the fall of 1997, and began with an in-store record signing at a Tower Records in Manhattan. The band was upset upon reading reviews that suggested the band had lost its punk edge, and started a riot during its scheduled eight-song set at the store. Armstrong then wrote the words "fuck" and "nimrod" in black spray paint on the storefront windows, and proceeded to moon the audience of 1,400 people. After the riot settled down, Cool threw his bass drum into the crowd while Armstrong attempted the same with a 200-pound monitor, which was wrestled away from him by a store manager. No charges were filed and no injuries were reported, but the store was closed for the day to repair damages caused.
On the tour in promotion of the album, Green Day aimed for simplicity and decided not to bring new instrumentalists to play for the new songs. Armstrong commented, "Right now we're refraining from pulling out a lot of that 'Nimrod' stuff. We want to make things small. We don't want to bring a horn section or a violin player out with us. A lot of people want to hear the old stuff, and that stuff is still just as significant to us." The Nimrod tour marked the first time the band performed its now-routine ritual of inviting audience members onstage to play instruments. During the tour, Armstrong felt that he became a better performer, noting, "I think some people walk away from a Green Day concert with the emotions you would get from some kind of theater performance where the crowd feels involved — where it's not just about the singer. It's not just about the band."
While performing at the 1998 KROQ Weenie Roast in Irvine, California, Third Eye Blind bassist Arion Salazar ran onstage and "bear-hugged" Dirnt, who was caught off-guard. The incident escalated into an on-stage scuffle before Salazar was taken away by security. After the performance, Dirnt confronted Salazar backstage, and as the two were arguing, a beer bottle struck Dirnt in the head, causing a small fracture in his skull. Eyewitnesses later attributed the bottle throwing to a fan of Third Eye Blind. Salazar and the band's management soon released a statement: "I am sorry that my attempt at doing something I thought would be funny escalated into Mike getting hurt. That was never my intention. I simply had too much to drink and made a very bad decision. If I had been in Mike's place, I am sure I would have acted similarly. My heart goes out to him and I hope he recovers quickly."
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" appeared in numerous events of popular culture, including a scene involving the death of a cancer patient on the medical drama ER and the series finale of the sitcom Seinfeld in 1998. The finale of Seinfeld attracted record figures of 100 million viewers, and has been deemed "the most talked about show finale" in US television history.
All lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong, all music composed by Green Day.
|1.||"Nice Guys Finish Last"||2:49|
|2.||"Hitchin' a Ride"||2:51|
|6.||"All the Time"||2:10|
|8.||"Platypus (I Hate You)"||2:21|
|10.||"Last Ride In" (Instrumental)||3:47|
|16.||"King for a Day"||3:13|
|17.||"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"||2:34|
|20.||"Do Da Da"||1:30|
Adapted from Nimrod liner notes.
- Diehl, Matt. (April 17, 2007) My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, The Distillers, Bad Religion---How Neo-Punk Stage-Dived into the Mainstream. St. Martin's Griffin Publishing. ISBN 978-0312337810.
- Myers, Ben. (April 1, 2006) Green Day: American Idiots & The New Punk Explosion. Disinformation Books. ISBN 978-1932857320.
- Spitz, Marc. (November 1, 2006) Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day. Hyperion. ISBN 978-1401309121.