Review: Green Day – ‘¡Uno!’

Billie Joe & Co. trade operatics for relentless '60s-charm pop-punk on the first of their triple-album series.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

 

Co-producer Rob Cavallo rides shotgun once again for Green Day's first studio album in three years, and he's dead on the mark with his assessment of the band's first in a triple-shot succession of records: "¡Uno! represents the feelings and fun of getting ready to go to a party."

That it does. These songs don't sound like aged rockers reaching for that vicarious-embarrassment faux-vitality so many who shall not be named are unquestionably guilty of. Brash '60s guitar pop-rockers pack ¡Uno!, almost every song a swing for the radio-hit fences – with barely a moment to breathe in the mix.

Opening with the punch-jump blast of "Nuclear Family," lines like "It's the death of the nuclear family staring up at you," and "Like a nuclear bomb and it won't be long 'til I detonate" don't seem like cheeseball throwbacks to the fire of youth, particularly over the slick instrumental crafting accompanying it. Following with the grownup reality of "Stay The Night," frontman Billie Joe Armstrong doesn't shy from maturity through dyed spiked hair and a curled Billy Idol lip, with a yearning passion shining through a tale of time slipping through the fingers of two lovers who realize they're on a course for goodbye.

 

Drummer Tre Cool leads through the Who-flirting short-jab magnetism of "Carpe Diem," a fast-beating heart setting off bottle rockets in celebration of living in the moment, before "Let Yourself Go" gives HGH a run for its money in revitalizing youth, calling back to a time when Armstrong & co. had a great deal to prove and no fucks to give. Nevermind that they're married with children and rounding the bend on middle age – the razors remain refreshingly sharp here.

A flawless execution it's not, however. In the dance-magnet "Kill the DJ," Armstrong sets the ray gun on blast for talk radio hypemongers, a dangerous edge with fanged threats over clean-chopping riffs, but by the second chorus the track begins to feel like a misstep, an easy distraction amid the repeating design until the groove-grab solo.

Self-righteous and jaded, "Loss of Control" juts out the chin and pops a collar with aggressive attitude. "Hey, isn't that old what's-his-face/That I see walking down the street," Armstrong sneers. "We never had anything in common/And I never liked you anyway." The only problem is that it doesn't strike the ear with nearly the amount of danger the lyrics suggest it should. 

A full gallop Weezer attitude sets in on "Troublemaker," wherein the trio flex their songwriting ease on a clap-track bopper that could've fit on American Idiot – or been a really dangerous track to play at the sock hop 60 years ago. "Angel Blue" follows suit, returning full-sail to the giddy-brat brightness that put them on the map to begin with – but the retro-pop architecture begins to wear on the ears by this point, leaving one eager for a departure that escapes us through the slight downshift of the saccharine time capsule "Sweet 16".

With the Broadway-baiting spectacle of 2004's mega smash American Idiot and, to a lesser extent, 2009's 21st Century Breakdown, the momentum to create an over-the-top record of blasting transcendence was certainly present – and it wouldn't have been a leap for Green Day to head down the self-cornering corridor that Muse have found themselves locked in with their overblown space-drama operatics. But ¡Uno! punches in with more measured ambition, despite its radio appeal. Catchiness and lean architecture are the focal points, calling back 1994's Dookie with more than an edge of confidence befitting the mega-platinum superstars. 

The action continues with ¡Dos! in November. Get ready for the party.