Green Day's second full album was the perfect dry run for the band's later assault on the mainstream, containing both more variety and more flat-out smashes than previous releases had shown. With Tre Cool now firmly in place as the drummer, the lineup was at last settled, and it turned out Cool and Mike Dirnt were a perfect rhythm section, with the former showing a bit more flash and ability than John Kiftmeyer did. Together the two throw in a variety of guitarless breaks that would later help to define the band's sound for many - warm and never letting the beat go. As for Billie Joe Armstrong, his puppy-dog delivery and eternal switching between snotty humor and sudden sorrrow was better than ever, as were his instantly memorable riffs. The metal-strength chug that always informed the band's best work isn't absent either - check out Armstrong's opening riffing on "Christie Road." The whole thing starts with a note-perfect bang - "2000 Light Years Away" is the absolute highlight of the group's premajor-label days, with a great chorus and classic yearning lyrics. It got buried in the wave of Dookie's success a bit, but one other number didn't - "Welcome to Paradise," also a standout on that album, appears here in its original form. Rob Cavallo punched up the radio-friendly sound on the latter take, but even here it's a treat and a half - quick, rampaging, and once again with a great stop-start chorus to spare. Other straight-up pop winners include "One of My Lies" and "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?." Elsewhere, Green Day slow down tempos, try acoustic numbers, and in one hilarious moment, pull off a ridiculous yet worthy country pisstake with the Cool-written "Dominated Love Slave." CD versions included the Sweet Children EP as a slightly surprising bonus.
- Ned Raggett, All Music Guide