Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Reprise / Warner Bros. / Warner Music
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Punk Revival, Punk-Pop
Just when you thought Green Day didn't make albums like this anymore – 12 blasts of hook-savvy mosh-pit pop, cut hot and simple with no operatic agenda – singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool do three at once and issue them in rapid-fire installments. It's lunacy, of course, in what now passes for the music business. In fact, Green Day's triple play with longtime co-producer Rob Cavallo is the way things used to be.
When Green Day first announced they’d be releasing three new studio albums in a six-month surge, the timing seemed appropriate. After the back-to-back rock-operas American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, a quasi-triple-album seemed like a weirdly logical next step—and also a surefire recipe for bloated concept-album indulgence. But as the militant opening power-chord blasts of “Nuclear Family” make clear, Green Day are in no mood for thumb-twiddling.
There’s something insidious about pop music as it has developed in the past 30 years. Now the top 40 market is so dominated by the buying power of adolescents with discretionary babysitting income, that it makes it very difficult for pop stars to age gracefully. I can’t usually listen to any of it for more than 30 seconds at a time, so I’m no expert, but when’s the last time you heard am adult singing to other adults about something other than sex that might concern adults? Hal David’s death made some of us wonder where the sophistication, that infused so many pop songs up to the 70s, had gone.
Green Day's new millennium elevation to Very Important Band is so complete that when they decided to return to their frivolous punk roots they couldn't do it in a small way. They started to knock out a bunch of garage punk tunes and wound up with not one but three collections of punk-pop: a trilogy entitled ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!, each released within a couple months of one another. For as many passing references to the Clash as there are on ¡Uno! -- musical and lyrical, with the opening "Nuclear Family" alluding to the riff of "Safe European Home" and "Rusty James" talking about the "last gang in town" -- this is no Sandinista!, as it finds Green Day shrinking their world, not expanding it.
”What ever happened to the teenage dream?” asked Seventies glamour pixie Marc Bolan, a question Green Day have been trying to answer since the turn of the millennium. Finally, after spending two albums pondering the nature of disavowed, disenchanted post-modern youth to lucrative, if occasionally dry effect, they’ve stopped dissecting that dream and started celebrating it. ¡Uno!, the band’s ninth album and the first of a trilogy, is a 45 minute power-pop valentine to the adolescent experience, and the least seriously the world’s biggest punk band™ have taken themselves in nearly two decades.
¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tre!—Green Day’s rapid-fire release of three albums over the next few months—is simultaneously a bold artistic and commercial maneuver by punk’s biggest band and an excuse for the trio to affix a promotional budget to a dumb joke. Admittedly, it’s a joke that despite my better instincts always elicits a chuckle from me whenever I see the titles laid out in print, so I have to give Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool credit for that. That’s Green Day for you: even as all three of its members reach their 40th birthdays this year, their senses of humor will eternally be tapped into the wavelength of everyone’s inner middle-schooler.
On their ninth album, Uno, Green Day returns to the basics. Away with the risible narrative pretensions of their concept years! Away with the lights of old Broadway! Back to the terse and spoiled teenage whining, wrapped in short compulsive melodies, which even at this late stage they seem to churn out like the uncontrollable effluence of an overactive gland. But it can be difficult to leave epic ambition behind cold-turkey.
On “Angel Blue,” a typically breathless pop-punk offering from Green Day’s latest album Uno!, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong sings that he’s “Trying to find my better angels. ” Considering all of the high-concept, theatre-ready bombast the band has produced in the past decade, those angels might as well have been Roger Waters and Andrew Lloyd Webber. On the new album, those better angels are once more Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer, which will likely please a lot of fans who thought that the foray into theme albums was reaping diminishing rewards.
There are few stronger advocates of the format, but Green Day’s status as one of the last remaining ‘album’ bands is actually a pretty recent phenomenon. Before ‘American Idiot’, what the East Bay trio really excelled at was singles: though vexingly inconsistent over marathon distances, they were unbeatable in three-minute sprints. It seemed as though the dawning of an iPod culture that consumed tracks, not albums, could only benefit Billie Joe and co, who had entered the noughties in critical and commercial decline.
Where their heroes the Clash channeled a surge of creativity into 1980's eclectic, sprawling triple album Sandinista!, Green Day's new trilogy of single albums – ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! – will arrive at two-month intervals. This opening salvo sees the Californians moving away from concept albums such as 2004's antiwar American Idiot and returning to their ramalama punk roots. The influence of the the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Damned is channeled into songs which never outstay their welcome, have choruses which sound like you've known them all your life, and oodles of energy.
On ¡Uno!, the first entry in Green Day‘s proposed trilogy of albums, the Bay Area outfit circles back to their younger ideology of simply having fun with an attitude. While other acts were looking inward and down upon the stage, Green Day?s early output wasn?t so introspective as it was a choice blend between debauchery and heartache. There was a safe quality in the trio’s music that caused many of the proper punks to sneer right back at Billie Joe Armstrong, but the band never cared about that 20 years ago any more than they do now.
GREEN DAY play the Air Canada Centre on January 29. See listing. Rating: NN At the recent iHeartRadio Festival, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong revealed his punk rock side, launching into an expletive-filled, guitar-smashing rant against the celebration of corporate radio. The next day, the singer apologized and checked into rehab.
The first of their three albums to be released in the next five months, Uno! is the sound of a group intent on recapturing their carefree adolescence following 2009's 21st Century Breakdown. The stadium punks' ninth album, though, is largely throwaway, its frenzied, phlegm-flecked songs littered with sentiments ("Someone shoot the DJ/Kill the fucking DJ") that sound daft coming from a 40-year-old frontman. Hopefully the next LP, due in November, will build on the promise of the swaggering Rusty James, which proves them capable of crafting more than alternative theme tunes to Scooby Doo.
Review Summary: Uno!/5Say what you will about 21st Century Breakdown. It may be pretty terrible, but at least it’s terrible in a colossal, massively ambitious way that’s kind of admirable. It has the pretense of being a grand statement from a band that doesn’t have the language to communicate what it means, but God bless them for trying, right? Then again, maybe I’m just giving it a charitable read out of some obligatory sense of nostalgia, because here I am, listening to Uno!, a record that duds like a crumpled up piece of paper hitting the rim a of a trash can, longing for the days when Green Day imploded like a neutron star, capable of inspiring something other than a nagging sense of disappointment.
Here’s the thing about Green Day: They’re at the point in their career where they can legitimately do whatever they want. They’ve sold 70 million albums worldwide and played to nearly as many in their 25-year career. Hell, it’s practically a given that they’ll be a first-ballot inductee for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013, their first official year of eligibility.
As demonstrated by the psychopathic conservative Christian in “Kill the DJ,” Green Day still casts itself against the belligerent bigots of an alien nation. But from the triple-strummed power-chords of “Nuclear Family” to the clarion call of “Oh Love,” the bright musical tone here implies some kind of détente. Guitars ring cleanly, the bass burbles and pops, and Billie Joe Armstrong often loosens his trademark snarl into a simple croon.
Californian punks’ ninth LP confirms their status as one of the world’s finest bands. Ian Winwood 2012 With their last eight years occupied by the grand projects of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, the notion that Green Day are a band whose musical character is informed by a sense of creative courage is no longer new. One of the most fascinating things about ¡Uno!, though, is just how deftly its authors have managed to secure for themselves fresh ground on which to operate.