When Green Day's first album appeared, anyone predicting that fame, MTV, top-selling albums, and more would be on the horizon in the near future would have been happily patted on the head and then sent to the insane asylum. It helps to remember that Nirvana's breakthrough was still a year away, for one thing, and, for another, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hour isn't a truly great album in the first place. It's not bad, by any means, and quite arguably just about everything on it could be transposed with a slight aural tweak here and there to Dookie or Insomniac without anyone batting an eye. It's just little more than a fun punk-pop album with some entertaining metallic flash here and there, one of many such records that the late '80s and early '90s produced in the indie rock world. After a great start with "At the Library," it's quickly clear that the rest of the record is going to continue in the same vein. What's fun is realizing how much the band already had to work with, pursuing obvious love of three-chord forebears like the Dickies and the Ramones to energetic if not revelatory ends. Billie Joe Armstrong's balance of disaffection and nervous, goofy passion is well in place, while he's already showing his effective, no-frills approach to chewy feedback melody. Songs like "I Was There" and "Road to Acceptance," not to mention the implicitly weed-celebrating "Green Day" itself, are great calling cards for later breakouts on both levels. Mike Dirnt's no slouch himself, providing good backing vocals when needed for harmony, but oddly enough the most prominent performance throughout comes from original drummer John Kiftmeyer, who wouldn't last through to the next album. Call it a quirk of recording, but there it is.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
feat: Waba Sé Wasca