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Green Day – ¡Uno!

on September 24, 2012, 8:00am
Green Day UNO C-
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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. However, when it comes to the production, to the sound of the music, perhaps they should start.

What made 2004’s American Idiot stand out was the message. Idiot was a valentine to the disaffected youth of the G.W. era who weren’t even in elementary school when Dookie hit outlets like the ancient Tower Records or now-dormant Virgin Megastores. They were more political and inherently concerned with the future back in 2004 than they were about getting laid and getting hammered. After releasing the similarly-themed 21st Century Breakdown in 2009, the guys had to decide whether or not to charge ahead as a politically-charged band like their forefathers of the late 70s and early 80s, or find their footing in the dormant steps of singing about normal problems.

¡Uno! stands out as a Friday night long player, reaching its highest potential around 10:30 p.m. on the doorsteps of any dive bar or venue, work be damned. The best part of the record is the excision of some of the ballads that plagued American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. There are some mid-tempo tracks, but nothing as weepy as “21 Guns” or “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. Even when the vocals calm down in “Sweet 16”, the electric guitar stakes its claim, as does the oft-reliable, pulsing rhythm section of bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool. One snappy, stop ‘n’ go track after the next makes it all feel like a reactionary record to those previous albums.

So the good times are back, along with producer Rob Cavallo, who twiddled and fiddled the knobs for Green Day dating back to the breakthrough Dookie (save the Butch Vig-produced 21st Century Breakdown and the self-produced Warning). However, here is where the problems present themselves. ¡Uno! was a chance to completely wipe away the commercial sheen of the past two decades. Such sheen still provided a number of terrific tracks and albums, but the production has officially run stale. The glossy packaging of “Kill the DJ” spins the track to Panic! at the Disco territory, regardless of its threatening lyrics  (“Someone kill the DJ/ Shoot the fucking DJ/ Hold him underwater/ ‘Til that motherfucker drowns”), and soon after, the rambunctious guitars on “Troublemaker” get suffocated by tinny drums and generic bridges of dilapidated “woo-woo”s. By album’s end, “Oh Love” trudges by with premeditated instrumentation that never once feels gritty, aggressive, or, even worse, impacting.

Production issues aside, and despite its knack for brevity, Green Day still proves capable of providing arena-ready material. Opening track “Nuclear Family” melts on first chorus, harboring the angsty FM-ready wails of the band’s Nimrod-era.“Angel Blue” has a chorus tempo straight out of a mid-70s Meat Loaf track by way of Jim Steinman theatrics (“You’re just a fucking kid/ And no one ever gives you a break/ You want a senorita/ And now your heart is gonna break”). The quick strum and chorus of “Stay the Night” veers away from its opening moments that recall a possible retread of “Are We the Waiting?”. Then, rather unexpectedly, an ode to a lesser-known Francis Ford Coppola film arrives in the form of Rumble Fish’s main character, “Rusty James”. The song’s chorus represents Armstrong’s feelings about his band’s place in music after so many years, and the critics that have railed against them (“I wanna ride on the divided/ Anything but the mainstream/ Where the fuck is your old gang, man?”).

However, the album’s centerpiece is the infectious “Let Yourself Go”, a future breadwinner of many setlists to come that will no doubt elicit bruised ribs and shins. It’s an instance of a total recall that succeeds because of its simple but call-to-arms chorus of, well, letting yourself go. Armstrong shines throughout with scummy guitars, a rockist-friendly solo, and “fuck it” lyrics that will irritate parents everywhere — even those that grew up with ‘em. Toss it in with some of the band’s earlier tracks, and it just might fit in seamlessly.

It’s easy to forget that there’s still two more albums to follow after ¡Uno!, all of which were recorded during the same sessions. One might argue that ¡Uno! will play better off ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!. Who knows yet. For now, we have to take it on its own accord: an overly-slick record that does the job for its current audience of diehards, whilst teasing the crusty veterans that dabble occasionally. In other words, nothing’s really changed.

Essential Tracks: “Stay the Night”, “Let Yourself Go”, and “Angel Blue”

Feature artwork by Mike Zell:

 Album Review: Green Day   ¡Uno!

8 comments

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Richard
September 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

As a lifelong Green Day fan, I have to say I find this a terrible, terrible album. I’m all for Green Day going back to the style that made them popular pre-American Idiot, but what I get from this is they don’t remember what made them popular. After two albums of talking about 21st century America, the self-deprecating style of Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod has gotten lost, replaced with excessive swearing and song structures too similar to previous songs. There are some gems on the album (Stay The Night, Fell For You and Rusty James), but this album sounds more like the group looking in on the target audience they used to play to and trying (and failing miserably) to reach out to them again. If this is deliberate and will be later realised with ¡DOS! and ¡TRÉ!, then these albums should have been released together, because, for this lifelong Green Day fan, this isn’t what I loved about the band when I first heard them 15 years ago.

Mallika Guhan
October 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Yeah! what made them awesome was that they didn’t give a fuck and that resonated in their music. They didn’t have to sing about not giving a fuck… it was evident in their style, lyrics, and musicality. Once you start singing about how you don’t give a fuck directly, it makes you seem like you want everyone to think about you in a particular way… which basically means, you give a fuck. I’ve loved every album they’ve put out for different reasons – but I could barely make it through this one. Also, I love that their music is simple and straight forward power punk — their music usually keeps to similar chord progressions — but MAN it felt a lot of the time they were trying to write the same song again. I could hear sections from side projects or old songs they’d already released – recycled? I dunno, maybe they’ve come full circle now. It’s just sad because this band affected a significant part of my life and I feel like they lost themselves with this one. It’s a very confused album! (Like the new Muse album too…)

also my favourite tracks were kill the DJ and troublemaker (it had that “network” vibe, I really dig) I find it funny that they were the anti-examples.

Mark S
September 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

agreed, this is a fun disk. Probably too catchy to be termed punk, but it is Green Day, and a great addition to a catalog of great music.

Larry Fenix
September 25, 2012 at 9:47 am

the album is fun. We’ve had 2 serious albums, time to let the guys dance again

kid gorgeous
September 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

so does your hick name

Ronnie
September 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

This album blows

34
September 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

What an astute review

Ronnie
September 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

I put as much thought into my review as they put into the album. Any band in the world could make this garbage if they wished to lower themselves to it, you just keep supporting Billie through this troubling and publicity filled time.

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