12-10. ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! Trilogy (2012)
Runtime: 41:44, 39:21, and 46:35
Brain Stew (Recording): After composing and relentlessly touring two separate rock operas — American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown — it seems as if Green Day were itching to abandon structure in favor of reckless ambition. “We are at the most prolific and creative time in our lives,” Billy Joe Armstrong proclaimed in early 2012. “This is the best music we’ve ever written, and the songs just keep coming.” It probably felt good, being able to write without the restriction of a theme or story. The result was three individual LPs, each focusing on a different style.
The first, ¡Uno!, centers around the kind of pop-punk that made them famous. The second, ¡Dos!, is a nod to Foxboro Hot Tubs, the band’s dirty, garage-centric side project. And Armstrong described the third, ¡Tré!, as “epic” and a “mixed bag,” stating that it would mainly consist of stadium anthems with classic rock influences.
In many ways, the trilogy resonates as an attempt to encompass the breadth of Green Day’s evolution. In doing so, however, the band overreached: the albums are overlong and packed with filler. Furthermore, Armstrong checked into rehab for alcohol addiction in the midst of the trilogy’s staggered release schedule. Viral footage, taken during an onstage meltdown at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, showed a man who seemed exhausted and unhinged. The trilogy’s excess seems to have extended into the lives of the band.
Paper Lanterns (Album Artwork): There was an elegance to the artwork of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, a simplicity that broadcasted themes of rebellion and community, respectively. ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! aren’t nearly so sophisticated, with black-and-white headshots of the band members, each with X’d out eyes, shoddily slapped on a vortex of neon. It’s sloppy and playful, a way to let listeners know that there was nothing so lofty as a rock opera on this trio of discs.
Kill the DJ (Reception): Mixed reviews greeted each of the albums, though they mostly skewed positive, if only because the stakes were fairly low. Rolling Stone praised each album, while publications like The A.V. Club and Alternative Press grew more and more weary with each passing record.
Having a Blast (Best Live Cut): Easy. ¡Uno!’s “Let Yourself Go” is pure brat-pop candy, combining a breakneck pace with playfully rebellious lyrics that teens could memorize after a single listen. The opening riffs never fail to ignite rapturous applause, and live performances often find Armstrong riffing on the song’s melodies, inviting the audience to shout along as they bounce off the ceiling.
Longview (Most Memorable Video): The music video for ¡Dos!’s “Stray Heart” makes the song’s premise hilariously literal. In it, an alt-hunk buys Green Day vinyls for the alt-babes in his life, all of whom stare at him with doe eyes until they realize there’s a giant hole in his chest. Turns out his heart has absconded and is out banging ladies and smoking cigarettes. It’s funny, playful, and a perfect pairing with the jaunty, lighthearted track.
Song of the Century (Most Enduring Track): No track off this trilogy could be considered essential Green Day, though “Oh Love”, an early single off ¡Uno!, seems to be in steady rotation at their live shows, and its triumphant, sing-along chorus is a fine example of the pleasures of latter-day Green Day.
In the End (Final Analysis): There are good songs here — “X-Kid”, “Oh Love”, “Stray Heart” — but they’re buried in not just filler, but also experimental tracks that should never have left the demo stage. Despite being a single, “Kill the DJ” is embarrassing, a confused attempt at mainstream radio pop. And while a collaboration with Mystic Knights of the Cobra’s Lady Cobra is intriguing, ¡Dos!’s “Nightlife” is as jarring as it is instantly forgettable. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but this trilogy feels more like a purge than a cohesive artistic statement, a chance for Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool to do everything they weren’t able to while penning their rock operas.