By T.J. Dempsey | Music Editor Published: 07/12/2013 8:00 am EST
For another day, perhaps, there’s a lot that can be said of the career arc of punk/pop trio Green Day. For now, let it suffice to say that the years between ‘Dookie’ and ‘American Idiot’ saw a genuinely fascinating and woefully unexamined stretch of artistic exploration. With the ubiquity of their early singles drowning out much of their other output, it can be quite refreshing to realize that, outside of the heat off the limelight, the band is just as capable of producing interesting and idiosyncratic tunes at workmanlike efficiency.
Subconsciously, perhaps, it was 1997’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” that I most firmly latched onto when I first began introducing myself to Green Day via ‘International Superhits.’ Wedged firmly between the peppy, underrated (can such a thing be said of any song on a “greatest hits” album, I wonder?) “Stuck With Me” and the obscenely overplayed (though who hasn’t loved it at some point, however fleetingly?) “Good Riddance [Time of Your Life],” “Hitchin’ a Ride” can seem unassuming at first glance. In that respect, it nicely embodies the general vibe of much of Green Day’s later 90’s offerings.
“Hitchin’ a Ride” does have a bit of the old “bob & weave” when it comes to pinning it down with expectations, though. Sure, the hammering choral riff would tie it back to the likes of “Brain Stew,” but there’s relatively little of the snide snarl & posturing that went along with tracks like “Geek Stink Breath” or “Nice Guys Finish Last.” In fact, the lyrics are fairly non-confrontational, assuming more of the narrative tone that would fully arrive later (though not as late as you’re probably thinking; again, some other time) in Green Day’s career. That, paired with the tempered yet still rocking pace of the track and its aspirations beyond rote electric shredding, indicate “Hitchin’ a Ride” as portentous of the band’s impending move away from their defining pop/punk sound.
One last, clumsily transitioned thing: how great is this video? Mark Kohr sadly doesn’t seemed to have achieved the same level of acclaim as other music video directors of his generation, but the man has a solid track record with bands like Cake and artists like Les Claypool, and the grainy, washed out look of “Hitchin’ a Ride” is absolutely spot on. The overriding warped carnival aesthetic, the pseudo-retro vibe of the whole scenario, accents just how starkly different “Hitchin’ a Ride” is from its more well-known counterparts, particularly when it comes to tone. It must be said as well that the slapstick chaos of the bridge is utterly glorious, paying off on all the right cues like a classic vaudeville routine. On the strength of this one video alone, Kohr could easily assert his skill alongside the likes of Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry.
Thomas Dempsey hails from Greenville County, South Carolina, where he has made a name for himself assembling and delivering sandwiches. A graduate of Presbyterian College with a duel major in Creative Writing and History and a minor in film, he’s achieved the technical status of professional writer by contributing to Examiner.com as a DVD critic. An aficionado of all media, Thomas harbors a particular affinity for visual storytelling and music.