Arriving eleven years after it was filmed and ten years after the album won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, Heart Like a Hand Grenade emerges as an entertaining time capsule that, while not offering any particularly dramatic moments, should please the venerable rock band’s many fans. After its limited theatrical screenings the documentary should find its biggest audiences with its digital and DVD release next month.
Unlike so many previous behind-the-scenes rock documentaries that revealed the internal tensions within bands, this effort displays Green Day thoroughly enjoying themselves while recording their concept album. Although gregarious and witty front man Billy Joe Armstrong garners the lion’s share of the camera’s attention, bandmates Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool get their moments in the spotlight as well. That director Roecker is a longtime friend of the band no doubt accounts for the looseness of everyone involved.
Those looking for deep analysis into the band’s songwriting and recording process are likely to come away disappointed, with only brief moments illuminating their creativity. Rather, the film delivers an amusing fly-on-the-wall perspective highlighted by such segments as when Armstrong delivers a tongue-in-cheek lecture about how to drink responsibly.
The first tip is to “drink a lot of water,” advises the writer/performer who went on to have a well-publicized stint in rehab a few years later.
Armstrong also comments about the pretentiousness of recording a concept album—”When Led Zeppelin did Dark Side of the Moon…” he jokes—and provides an ironic foreshadowing of the album’s hit, 2010 Tony Award-winning stage adaptation when he notes, “It’s like Broadway at the end there,” about one of the songs.