Album Review: Green Day ‘¡Uno!’

Green Day was my favorite band when I was eleven years old, and it’s sort of surreal to me that they are still going and making almost exactly the same sort of music almost twenty years later. I imagine there is a generation who think Green Day got their start with American Idiot, and who may be surprised to learn that the members of the band are all around forty years old and still rocking the eyeliner.

They’ve gotten a little ambitious with ¡Uno!, which is the first of a trilogy of albums they plan to release over the span of only a few months. With something like this or a double album it’s always a concern that there will be a lot of filler, and the onus here will be on Green Day to prove that idea wrong.

“Nuclear Family” is barely indistinguishable from their early work, but is noticeably more pop-oriented. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s worth being upfront about for those who are going to focus in on the notion that the band have sold out, which feels like an old idea at this point. Most of the album’s songs fall into this category, and while it isn’t particularly exciting stuff it is at least catchy and singable.

The second largest breed of songs on ¡Uno! feel as if they were designed for teen movie soundtracks. “Stay The Night” is a very strong and early example of this, while “Fell For You” is one I can see being a popular prom choice. “Oh Love” might be best for the drive home from prom, for some lucky little punk out there.

While the concept of selling out does feel dated and sort of irrelevant to me, the one genre of music in which this might still be important is punk rock. Green Day is a band that is unarguably cut from that cloth, so the steady march of formulaic music for mass consumption doesn’t always mesh well with the attitude on display.

Billie Joe recently threw a tantrum on stage at the iHeart Radio Music Festival, when the band’s time was cut dramatically short. He was understandably upset, but no less was it comical to me when he began to try to smash his guitar on the stage and friend Mike Dirnt dutifully followed suit with his bass. In both of their cases it seemed like an automated situational response, but it reminded me of the idea that these guys are in fact a punk band of some mutation. It’s a shame to me that there is none of that aggression on this record.

This album shows signs of some musical laziness, or even confusion. “Carpe Diem” features a strange and lackadaisical chant of “celebrate, celebrate”, which feels thoroughly depressing, and I’m really not sure it’s supposed to sound that way. The whole song has a feeling of sarcastically mocking the idea of seizing the day, rather than actually encouraging positivity, and it just seems that the music and lyrics aren’t thought out or matched at all. “Let Yourself Go” on the other hand sounds completely genuine, and I think this is the one meant to be taken less than seriously.

“Kill The Dj” is slightly funky and more intentionally different from the rest, and I think the fact that it strays the furthest from what most would probably expect of the band is its strength. If Green Day had no interest at all in maintaining an image they might be better suited to this kind of music at this point in their careers.

With three of these albums coming out in sequence, they are either going to be wildly different from one another, or there is going to be a ton of repetition. This first entry into the trilogy is very much what should be expected of Green Day, and filler there is in no small amount. If this is a sign of things to come I’m not sure what value there could be in two more healthy servings of songs that already bleed together quite a lot, but on its own it’s alright. Here’s hoping for something more from ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!

Release Date: September 25, 2012
Image Courtesy of Reprise