When it comes to greatest hits albums, the best way to experience them is chronologically. Green Day’s latest collection (after 2001’s International Superhits) traces the band’s progress from Kerplunk! cut 2000 Light Years Away, all the way to their Grammy-winning success in the early noughties. The band has been going for 31 years, and it’s impressive to hear how their sound has evolved as the band have matured into their mid-40’s.
Their musical variety has always marked Green Day out as the best of their contemporaries. Unlike other pop-punk bands, they’ve never been afraid to let their musicianship and songwriting abilities shine through. Hearing Time Of Your Life (Good Riddance) again – outside its usual soundtrack to college graduations – you’re reminded just how good it is. Billie Joe Armstrong’s plaintive and simple vocal over a delicate and heartfelt string arrangement was the first sign of a mature sound emerging from previous singles Brain Stew, Longview, and Hitchin’ A Ride. These early singles represent the band’s breakthrough – catchy, well-written, and hooky, they were accompanied by era-defining music videos to match. After an initial success, the band’s commercial fortunes cooled slightly with the underrated Warning, an album that found moving towards a more diverse pop-inflected sound.
With the albums American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, the band would be restored to commercial and critical acclaim. Rock operas full of political and personal lyrics, with a new level of maturity, insight, and depth – by 2004 Green Day had become rock superstars. From the ballad Wake Me Up When September Ends to the upbeat Holiday and American Idiot, the albums are well-represented here. Later cuts from Uno!, Dos!, Tre! are skipped over, only Oh Love appearing. The album closes out with a new version of Revolution Radio track Ordinary World, an acoustic folk duet with Miranda Lambert. It again showcases Armstrong’s ability with a slower song, and sitting next to previously unreleased Back In The Usa offers fans a contrast between the band’s two musical styles. As a reminder of just how far Green Day have come, God’s Favorite Band is a cracking collection from one of the finest pop-punk bands around.