September 23, 2012

Album Review: Green Day's ¡Uno!

Coming of age during the '90s, Green Day shares a certain place in AS' heart reserved for "my first punk band" nostalgia alongside Rancid, early AFI and major label-era Bad Religion. Back in a time when MTV 120 Minutes and listening to your local alt-radio's top 10 countdown of the day were the only ways an 11-year-old Catholic school kid could get a glimpse into a more exciting world outside of suburbia, their 1994 breakthrough Dookie not only resonated with the pubescent male mentality, but exposed a kid to a sound that had just as much pop flavor to it as it did attitude. The band's subsequent releases throughout the '90s and early 2000s saw them mature and decline in relevance with their fan base, and while not every album was ever close to classic, the hit singles made up for it. The Green Day of today is an entirely different story of course, having become cartoonish parody pin-ups of punk with the overblown production on 2004's punk rock opera American Idiot and the subsequent bastardization of that with classic rock on 21st Century Breakdown. During these years, bands who've probably worn their way through a few copies of Kerplunk! and Dookie during their lifetime (i.e. Best Coast, Cloud Nothings and Wavves) have taken advantage of the snot-nosed pop punk simplicity Green Day no longer embraces to become a whole new generation's heroes, and now it seems like Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool want back in on the sound with their 9th studio effort, ¡Uno!

The first part of a trilogy of albums set to arrive within the coming months, ¡Uno! relies on heart-tugging nostalgia in the same way Weezer sets their oldest listeners up for disappointment each time they claim they're revisiting influence from the blue album or Pinkerton: A few songs feel like they could fit in with those from a past era, but they are nowhere are genuine in purpose. A thumbs up to Green Day and longtime studio collaborator Rob Cavallo is at least warranted on the opening tracks "Nuclear Family," "Stay the Night" and "Carpe Diem," throwbacks to the short, stripped and under-produced power chord progressions of the band's underrated and cohesive 2000 effort, Warning, yet -- along with the rest of the LP -- are much too similar in tempo and verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula to discern apart. At the same time, Green Day sound at odds when contriving effortless-sounding riffs as to not alienate the fan base they've built with your parents' playlist by throwing in banal versions of new wave on "Let Yourself Go" and classic Brit rock on closer, "Oh Love." And then there's the glaringly out of place "Hang the DJ," which sounds like a B-side stolen out of the song book of a certain well-dressed Glasgow band while they opened for Green Day in 2009.

¡Uno! is at best misguided fun that banks on distracting veteran Green Day fans away from the grand, stadium-filling anthems that have made them the biggest punk rock sell outs of all time with a half-hearted attempt to jog their memories back to an era when everything wasn't such a huge production. If album reviews were based solely on mixing and engineering, LP 9 would rival the Berkeley trio's best early efforts, yet considering ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! are scheduled to arrive in November and January respectively, the repetitive and lifeless nature of the music here makes you wonder if Billie Joe and the guys might have been wiser combining the few okay songs and putting them on one half-decent album. Green Day have done too much commercialized damage to their credibility in recent years, however, and if pretend back-pedaling to scrappy pop punk is their goal, there's something that's completely amiss about it: Today's next generation of indie Dookie-era disciples get credit for what they do because of how authentic their slacker effort sound is. That, and because you're only a 20-something-year-old bratty punk once.

Green Day's ¡Uno! will be released September 25, 2012 on Reprise Records.

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