||10/03/12 12:59 AM
Green Day - ¡Uno!
Green Day - ¡Uno!
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Record Label: Reprise Records
Setting the bar for yourself is a positive thing. It usually means you’ve done something right – people have an expectation for you to parallel an accomplishment or do something better. No one was expecting Green Day to put out a record like American Idiot when it came out in 2004. Problem is, once a pop-punk band like Green Day puts out a heralded, grandiose rock opera…what comes next for them? Are they in over their heads? It seems weak to go back to 3-minute punk songs, but should they really try to do the same thing again and attempt to make it as successful? 21st Century Breakdown wasn’t a bomb, but it didn’t live up to the bar that Green Day set for itself with Idiot. Faced with another awkward decision to make about the direction to take on a new record, Green Day threw out another curveball: A trio of albums to be released over a span of only six months.
¡Green Day Uno! is (obviously) the first in the set of new records, and it’s certainly no rock opera. Whether you think this is a good thing is completely a matter of personal taste. I loved American Idiot and immensely enjoyed 21st Century Breakdown. I appreciate when bands take on new identities. Let’s face it, there are a lot of pop-punk bands in the world; even if the rock opera thing totally tanked, it’s worth the risk for a band to try to do something different because they could wind up separating themselves from the pack. That’s exactly what Green Day has done for the last eight-ish years, to the tune of becoming one of the most recognizable rock bands in the world.
¡Uno! sees Green Day attempting to return to its roots. Although nothing here really sounds too much like the band’s pre-Idiot work, it still manages to just sound like…Green Day. From opener “Nuclear Family” to explosive single “Let Yourself Go” to basically every other track on the first two-thirds of the album, we see Green Day unleashing its tried-and-true brand of endlessly hooky power-chord-centric pop-punk. Expectedly polished to a spit-shined level in the production booth, Billie Joe Armstrong’s ever-identifiable bratty vocals bring home the catchy melodies, making the tracks instantly accessible. But whereas the album might be easy to listen to, the quality of songwriting is just not up to par on ¡Uno!
“Nuclear Family” is all but ruined with its corny countdown at the end, “Carpe Diem” sounds like a Green Day melody recycled into its umpteenth reincarnation, “Kill the DJ” is flat-out, blindingly, without a doubt the most awful song this band has written in its entire career, and the better songs on the album all run together. “Stay the Night” and “Fell for You” are pretty solid, and “Loss of Control” is OK if you can get past the lyrics, but these songs sound like they were all written in the exact same fashion. The variety is severely lacking here. And I know Green Day was never the most unpredictable band, but there’s something to be said about the quality of the songs themselves, and these songs simply don’t match up to the bar this band has set for itself.
The latter part of the album attempts to change things up a bit, but the end result is bland. Most everything from “Troublemaker” on down to confusing first single and closer “Oh Love” lacks any sort of punch, with the exception being the super-catchy and uptempo “Angel Blue.” The pair of “Sweet 16” and “Rusty James” provides the record’s low point, as it seems as though Green Day has run out of melodies and is now simply rehashing old ones.
This band is plainly at a strange crossroads. That seems weird to say after nearly three decades together, and this is a band that I have loved dearly for a very long time, but listeners have to wonder what the goal is for Green Day with this triple-dose of albums. They can’t write rock operas forever, but it’s equally as awkward to see the band return to the style of music they played 10 years ago, since it’s obvious that this isn’t the same band anymore. Green Day may have already hit its peak, but there’s no reason to not pay attention to the next two records in this cycle. Despite my mostly negative reaction, the fact remains that the pure catchiness and immediate nostalgia present in ¡Uno! make it fully replay-able. There are some parts you’ll have to suffer through, but there are at least a handful of tracks that we can save and enjoy into the future.
What we should really be hoping for is that this record was meant to send a message – a message that this is what we should be expecting now. Hopefully Green Day is resetting the bar and saving the biggest punches for later on. Hopefully the band will bring more experimenting and ambition on ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!, transforming ¡Uno! into the bridge between the rock opera stage of Green Day’s career and the return to plainly catchy punk rock songs. We can hope, I suppose.