I have to admit, I was dreading reading this book the moment I found out it was headed my way. I personally have nothing against Green Day; whether you love them or not, and whether you consider their current incarnation to be punk, they have had a solid impact on punk music, especially here in the states. Green Day's early records inspired a lot of today's punk rock, and they continue to turn the music world on its ear. I watched Green Day tear things up at the Warped Tour in 2000. So, it really wasn't any animosity specifically toward Green Day that had me dreading this book.
Simply put, I was afraid of what this book was going to be. When you find out a book is coming out that covers a band that is still considered fresh and hot, and the band is even gracing the covers of teenybopper magazines, then it's often fair to think the book will be a fluff piece, full of lists of the band's favorite colors and TV shows.
A former senior writer at Spin, Mark Spitz has created a book on the band that is in-depth and interesting, with minimal amounts of the fluff that would appeal to Green Day's teenage fans. In doing so, he has created a book that will appeal to many fans of punk in general, even those who don't like what the band has become today.
Nobody Likes You begins with the childhood of Billie Joe Armstrong, and the picture he paints of his childhood, as well as the childhoods of his future bandmates, is a familiar picture that will be recognized by everyone who was once a young, white suburban punk rock kid.
Spitz doesn't simply focus on Green Day, but looks heavily at what was going on around them, with entire chapters focused on things like the early days of MaximumRockNRoll and the Gilman Street Project, a legendary punk club that's still up and running. He looks at Operation Ivy, and how they paved the way for Green Day, and interviewed sources on the scene that vary widely, ranging from Jello Biafra to Courtney Love.
While I found the early history most interesting, the run of their career as they rose from well-known punks to household names to stardom, playing Lollapalooza and Woodstock 1994 was also solid. And Spitz didn't shy away from the weirdness that happened after that either, when it seemed as though Green Day was fading out, only to come back to stardom with American Idiot.
The book ends here, simply because it's present day, but the Green Day story isn't over yet. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. Will they continue to increase in popularity, and continue to be alienated from their punk roots? And what is it exactly that says that Green Day's popularity and punk rock are exclusive from one another? These are also some of the themes explored in this book.
At it's core, Nobody Likes You is not an overly complex book, but it is a well-written and well-researched document on one band's place in the history of music, how they were affected by their times and how they would affect others. If you're a Green Day fan, you really should read this. If you're simply a musical history buff, you might want to check it out, too – it's a solid collection of interesting interviews and historical anecdotes that really puts Green Day into perspective, both then and now.