It is almost impossible to objectively review a Green Day record in the year 2012. There are segments of the fan base that have never really forgiven Billie Joe, Mike and Tre for moving on from pop-punk to overblown rock operas (with 2004’s American Idiot and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown). There’s also a segment of fans that felt like Green Day really hit its stride when they moved on from silly songs about masturbation / drugs and love the political posturing of recent years. The release of not 1, not 2, but 3 records over the next 4 months will prove to be one of the most ambitious projects ever taken on by a mainstream artist (certain indie artists still release 3 or 4 records a year. Really – they do). Despite any mainstream vs. punk, silly hipster / true punk arguments – I love Green Day. There, I said it. I’m a huge Green Day fan.
Since 1994 (that’s 18 years ago, folks) Green Day have been a household name. Sure, there were arguments back then about whether Green Day had sold out the punk aesthetic (word to the wise – if there is an aesthetic, it can’t really be punk now, can it?). Most of those arguments had faded away into the ether by the time 2000’s decidedly non-punk album, Warning, was released – but seemed to start-up all over again with the records that followed. I’ve read the information about the trio of records being released at the tail end of 2012 / early 2013 with interest – which version of Green Day are we going to get? I’ve listened to ¡Uno! quite a few times since the day of release and the answer to my question is…neither. It is a very good record that attempts to recapture the carefree feelings of yesteryear as viewed from the perspective of 40+ year olds.
A bit about the music…
The album starts off with “Nuclear Family” which sets the tone for the record – a winning slab of pop-punk. Very warm tone, strong melody. Political concerns of the past are brushed off in favor of more personal concerns. Slight Ramones like breakdown a minute in or so. My favorite lyric from this one – “Gonna ride the world like a merry-go-round / Like a Ferris wheel like it’s breaking down”
“Stay the Night” reminds of me of an updated 50’s ballad (though played much faster). The lyrics concern things of a more carnal nature – “Well I ain’t got much time so I’ll get to the point / Do you wanna share a ride and get the fuck out of this joint?”. There is warmth in Billie Joe’s voice and an overall carefree vibe to the music.
Things take an interesting turn with “Let Yourself Go” – an aggressive slab of vitriol. I can’t say for certain how heartfelt the lyrics really are, but the song features a high-octane attack, vocals that at times are barked off in rapid fire succession, and lyrics that say “fuck” more than your average Green Day song. It all contrasts very nicely with the positive and upbeat chorus imploring the listener to “Let yourself go, let yourself go, let yourself go”
Everyone is comparing “Kill the DJ” to The Clash, which I understand to an extent. It has a catchy, incessant groove and a repetitive, violent chorus. I think it works, but it took a few listens for me to warm up to it. Again makes use of the word “fuck” more than I am accustomed to from Green Day. I’d liken this track more to Green Day ripping off Radio 4 who were ripping off The Clash (just my opinion, of course). Guitar tones throughout sound like something from Sun Records or even Chris Isaak (surf wah wah). The violent lyrics contrasted with the mostly upbeat danceable music works really well. “Someone kill the DJ, shoot the fucking DJ / Voices in my head are saying / “Shoot that fucker down.”
The 50’s vibe makes a return late in the record with “Sweet 16” – a song that oozes with a nostalgic look at youth. Billie Joe has a lighter touch with his vocals that really maximize the song’s emotional impact. Not quite a ballad, it is a mid tempo rocker that will have you thinking about some of your favorite memories from your childhood. “Old days are fine, but are left so far behind / From California to Jane Street / Kids alright, alright as they’ll ever be”
This is an album the listener needs to approach with an open mind. It took me 2 listens to let go of the thought “Why are they not criticizing the state of the world anymore?”. The 2nd spin I began to warm up to it, and by the 3rd spin I realized that this is a very good record. Recently singer Billie Joe Armstrong had a breakdown of sorts, and while I’d urge anyone who has issues with alcohol to get help, his rant using the word “fuck” over 20 times didn’t seem like anything for him or the band to apologize for. In fact, maybe it was a bit of the old punk spirit? I don’t fucking know – all I can fucking tell you is that this is a great fucking record, and to give it a fucking chance. You’ll fucking love it.
Verdict: The Saga Begins
For Fans of: Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Smashing Pumpkins, Buzzcocks
01. Nuclear Family
02. Stay The Night
03. Carpe Diem
04. Let Yourself Go
05. Kill The DJ
06. Fell For You
07. Loss Of Control
09. Angel Blue
10. Sweet 16
11. Rusty James
12. Oh Love