Green Day’s weirdo anthem ‘Basket Case’ is filled with cut-throat honesty which has made the song an undeniable classic. It’s a track that has somehow stood the test of time and part of its charm rests on drummer Tre Cool’s shoulders. His thundering performance on the 1994 track is a rip-roaring example of his genius and hearing his drums isolated is an incredible experience.
‘Basket Case’ broke down barriers for Green Day, it helped transform them being this cult punk band from East Bay and become a voice for the disenchanted youth of America. The track was the second single from their now-seminal third album Dookie, which was the first album by the band to be released on a major label and started a journey that they are still embarked on today. That album saw Green Day become universally lauded and it propelled these three Californian punks from relative obscurity to worldwide fame.
Before joining Green Day initially on a temporary basis in 1990, Tré Cool was a completely different style of drummer than the thrashing powerhouse that has kept Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt ticking for the last 30 years. Cool once recalled: “When I started, I had too many drums. I was a little reggae-happy and into fancier beats than was needed. It took me a while to get it: play the song, don’t play the instrument. I started figuring out how to make the band a stronger unit, to make it jump.”
By the time that Green Day had progressed to album three, Cool had found his groove and was an integral part of what made the band this unstoppable force that would captivate the masses. Sound engineer Neil King, who worked on Dookie, still remembers being blown away by Cool’s animalistic style. King told Sound On Sound: “Tré as a drummer is very close in terms of his attitude to Keith Moon. He had that kind of wild animal approach to playing drums. He wasn’t uptight, he wasn’t too worried about getting everything just so. It was all attitude, and very exciting.”
Although this untamed nature to Cool’s technique did cause King a few issues, “It’s not that Tré wasn’t a good drummer, but in terms of his performances we wanted the best of the best,” the engineer recalled. “So, although we wanted him to do all of his wild fills and crazy drumming, we couldn’t just let him go. He’d drift in and out of time, which is terrific live, but which was unacceptable on radio at that time.”
The track itself is about Armstrong’s difficulties with his own mental health and for him to communicate openly about his issues with this song helped break the stigma surrounding the subject. In 2017, Armstrong told Rolling Stone: “It’s an anthem for weirdos. It’s about losing your mind. Most people have had that experience. As you get older, it gets more and more real,” he added. “That’s what creates longevity.”
There’s something about the vulnerability that Green Day defiantly show in ‘Basket Case‘ that connected with people on such a scale that propelled them to selling-out stadiums and arguably they have struggled to better the track since. Without Tre Cool’s drumming, ‘Basket Case’ wouldn’t have that same razor-sharp edge and hearing his performance isolated is an absolute treat.