If this review is good, call it the Cigarettes and Valentines theorem. (Credit to Dan Lyons for that.) Green Day’s 2004 magnum opus American Idiot only developed after the master tapes to an album in progress – Cigarettes and Valentines – were stolen, forcing the band to essentially start fresh. With most of yesterday’s review from Green Day’s ¡Uno! done, my computer suffered the Blue Screen of Death (TM) ailment, shutting it down without an auto-save in Microsoft Word. So…here we go again.
In my previous review pertaining to Green Day – a look at single “Let Yourself Go” – I celebrated the return of the band’s older, straight-up-punk sound, in lieu of a return to the grandiose concept-album structure of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. Truth be told, did Green Day have any choice, though? Billie Joe Armstrong admitted that creating Breakdown was a long and exhausting process, which can be shown by the five-year gap in between albums – a career long from the beginning of Green Day’s start as a band. So it always seemed unlikely, from the release of Breakdown on, that the band would go back to the same politically-motivated well. And here we are with ¡Uno!, the first of a trilogy of albums to be released over the next few months, which contains more of the “classic” Green Day sound since 2000’s Warning.
(By the way, I just got a second blue screen of death in two days. It hasn’t even been a year since I purchased this laptop. Time to back up everything.)
But is that a good thing? The answer, on ¡Uno!, is yes and no. The album starts out rather promisingly, as the opening five songs could nicely fit onto anything between Kerplunk and American Idiot. “Nuclear Family”, “Stay the Night” and “Carpe Diem” are solid straight-up rockers to begin the album. “Let Yourself Go” is the up-tempo, fiery highlight of the album, while “Kill The D.J.” is bloody, infectious fun that gets better with each listen. There isn’t a track, to this point, that I’d think about skipping.
And then…it gets a little bit ugly. Outside of “Troublemaker”, which is an enjoyable poppy/clap-a-long little tune, four of the next five songs should have never seen the light of day on an album. Ending tracks “Rusty James” and “Oh Love” are solid, if not spectacular, but the mediocrity’s been done by this point. This is B-side filler material, and it makes you wonder about the upcoming two albums of the trilogy, ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!. If this much of the first album is filler, did we REALLY need 36 songs’ worth of album material? The answer, so far, seems to be “no”.
Outside of “Kill the D.J.”, which masquerades as an Arctic-Monkeys-esque dance song, is there anything surprising about ¡Uno!? That’s not to say that Green Day needs to surprise to be effective, but that was part of the fun of Idiot and Breakdown. There was no guarantee you were going to hear the same thing from one track to the next – in fact, there was almost a guarantee that you’d get something completely different.
That’s not the case on ¡Uno!. It’s a paint-by-numbers album, which doesn’t have many moments of genuine inspiration and doesn’t do much to suggest there’s a huge difference coming. While Green Day’s likely not going to reinvent the wheel anymore, this album seems even more cobbled together out of the band’s previous songs than before. “Carpe Diem” rips the chords right out of “Jesus Of Suburbia” with vocal harmonies from “Suffocate”. The lyrics and vocals of “Rusty James” sound like they were picked up off of the cutting room floor from “Before The Lobotomy”. There’s nothing that says Green Day can’t do the things it’s always done well and have fun doing it – but something a little more surprising and inspired would be nice. Let’s hope the next two albums change the pace a bit.
(So…time to make this review into a Broadway musical yet?)