Album Review: Green Day “BBC Sessions”
review by Ricky Frankel
Album: BBC Sessions
Band: Green Day
Label: Reprise Records
As their discography expands, it seems like there are generally two types of Green Day fans. There are those that love everything pre-American Idiot and don’t pay attention to anything else and there are those that indulge in just about everything the band releases. Personally, I fall into the first group of fans, but American Idiot does have special place in my heart. And because Green Day has had such an influence on me and millions of punk fans, I always give their new release a chance. A lot of the time I’m not thrilled with what they have put out, but this year we got couple of old school releases that should have all kinds of Green Day fans’ ears perk up in attention. One is the very cool Insomniac double LP that came out in early 2021 for the album’s 25th anniversary. The other is the BBC Sessions, which came out just back in December.
The BBC Sessions is Green Day’s fourth live album, which features live recordings from 1994 to 2001. Each side of this double LP contains performances of songs from the particular album that the band had just recently released (or was about to release) at the time. Right off the bat, what makes the BBC Sessions an interesting piece is that though it is a live album there is no audience and the band play songs that typically would never make their setlist these days — just check Setlist.fm or one of their full performances on YouTube if you don’t believe me.
The June 8,1994 side features Dookie classics like “When I Come Around” and “Basket Case.” But you get two surprises when at the start of the first side. You immediately notice just how good the recording quality is and for the last track of this side Green Day performs the pre-Dookie era tune “2000 Miles Away.”
On June 3,1996 Green Day returned to the BBC to perform songs from Insomniac. On this side of the record, the band performs the “Brain Stew/Jaded” duo and they absolutely shred their way through “Stuck With Me.” The stand out track here though is “Walking Contradiction” because it is one of the tracks Green Day has hardly ever has performed live since. The band stays true to the song, but it’s still interesting to hear it in this setting nonetheless.
Green Day then came back to the BBC studios to perform songs off Nimrod on February 2, 1998. I don’t think it would really surprise anyone that they played “Hitchin’ A Ride” and “Nice Guys Finish Last.” Between the two, “Hitchin’ A Ride” really stands out because of how Green Day pulled off the screaming guitar solo and blasted through the song’s big finish. The trick? Jason White was brought on board the year before to be their touring guitarist. So this performance of “Hitchin’ A Ride” sounds just as full as the original. And once again, there are tracks on this side of the BBC Sessions that you probably won’t hear at a Green Day concert, specifically “Redundant” and “Prosthetic Head.”
The August 28, 2001 side features tracks from Green Day’s most controversial album of this era, which is Warning. These days you’ll probably hear the band perform jams like “Minority” and “Waiting” like they do on this record, but they also play a couple songs on here that might pleasantly surprise you. Immediately you notice that this version of “Castaway” could arguably be considered better than the original. When you hear Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals without the effect that the studio version has, you realize that it was sort of unnecessary to begin with, sounds less forced and more natural. The live version of “Church On Sunday” is one of the stand out tracks of this entire release. The guitars are much more distorted than the studio recording, which alone makes it sound so much better. Interestingly, Green Day had a saxophonist play a some fills in between verses and full on solo, which was an unexpected addition. This version of “Church On Sunday” is so much more aggressive generally and makes for an awesome deep cut.
This is one of those rare times where I can actually talk about the physical version of a release. I happened to catch the preorder for the BBC Sessions quite early so I snagged the vinyl variant that is exclusive to Green Day’s online store. This version of the double LP came with one blue disc and one pink disc both of which sound great upon first spin. I also really appreciate that this record came in a high quality and detailed gatefold — something that should have been done with the Insomniac 25th anniversary reissue. If you’re into vinyl like me, you definitely get your money’s worth out of this one. However, throwing in a download card would have been a nice cherry on top.
Overall, the BBC Sessions is a time capsule. It brings you back to a time where one of the most successful punk bands ever was blowing up. Because this release captures Green Day’s earlier years, fans of this era will most likely get a kick out of listening to these tracks, but they probably won’t see a lot fo replay value in them. Die-hard super fans who think that the band can do no wrong will undoubtedly love it. And I think everyone in between who will give it a listen and sort of forget about it. While it’s a high quality release that has some gems on it, the BBC Sessions isn’t that memorable of a release compared to Bullet In The Bible and Awesome As Fuck. The songs are played well, the recordings are crisp, but the majority of them are played straightforwardly. Some people want that, others want little additions to make the songs sound different from the studio versions. What can be appreciated is that it is a tip of the hat from Green Day that shows fans of all kinds that they still very much embrace their 90s-00s material, which has aged quite well. Because of that, in due time the BBC Sessions will probably age well too.