Green Day is a band that spans generations. It’s no easy feat for a group to stay commercially viable as long as Green Day has. But about four albums ago, many listeners across these generations started thinking the same thing: “I can’t believe this band is still around.”
This is a wise sentiment. Green Day’s last couple of records were a hair above abysmal, a fact underscored by the band’s numerous Grammy awards. However, it is this year’s ¡Uno! that truly exemplifies Green Day’s ability to prolong the questioning of its continuance.
A true testament to a band’s potential Grammy fodder is the record label’s ability to pick out the two most bowel-wrenchingly awful songs on the record and sell them as singles, then pick a third single to satisfy longtime fans. ¡Uno! follows this formula with zero deviation.
“Oh Love” does double duty as the album’s first single and the last track on the album. Of course the last song is the blue-collar anthem. On my first listen through, I was actually worried that there wouldn’t be a corny, Springsteen-aping ¡Uno! cut on the record, but the made-for-radio guitar rectified that before frontman Billie Joe Armstrong uttered a syllable.
The band is tight, there’s a guitar solo, and sure, Armstrong’s got chops—but rather than subtly interjecting the blue-collar message throughout the album, “Oh Love” just rubs your face in it, as if to legitimize the dreck on this record.
What kind of dreck, you ask?
The second single from ¡Uno! is “Kill the DJ.” It’s as bad as it sounds. Really. Armstrong told critics that the song, true to its name, is the most “dance-friendly” cut Green Day has ever laid down. Believe it—it certainly sounds like no other Green Day song ever. Imagine if Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” had been out even longer than eight years and its sound was even more dated. Now add some liberally sprinkled swearing and four more choruses. You’re there. Take a look around: Do you like what you see?
Admittedly, the third single, “Let Yourself Go,” has some plums—just like the formula states. Even though Green Day is donkey-chasing the record company’s proverbial suspended carrot, if every track on ¡Uno! sounded like “Let Yourself Go,” the headline would have been about Green Day being “back,” or some such nonsense. This throwback to classic Green Day circle pit-generators like “Jaded” or “409 in Your Coffeemaker” is welcome out of context, but within an entire record that sounds nothing like it, the track seems contrived.
As a single piece of music from start to finish, the album doesn’t hold up well. The hills and valleys are too numerous and drastic to really enjoy as one recording. “Kill the DJ” follows directly after “Let Yourself Go”; the experience is like being set on fire and then extinguished with dry ice—the extremes are too close together and the shift too radical to really gel with the listener.
There is certainly one degree of uniformity on ¡Uno!—at the exact midway point, right after “Kill the DJ” beats you up and leaves you bruised and whimpering, “Fell for You” comes along and kicks you in the ribs. That’s right, the halfway point of ¡Uno! finds Green Day at its mom-rockin’ worst.
The rest of the record drags on like a drunken uncle, leaving the listener to deal with the many phases of embarrassment. “Sweet 16” is as ham-fisted as it sounds, a Wheatus B-side complete with the appropriate inspirational vocals.
The record is also rife with Huey Lewis and the News-esque choruses, lead-off track “Nuclear Family” included. On “Troublemaker,” Green Day just admits that it is sneaking glances at Huey’s playbook—the song sounds like a particularly corn-laden cut from Huey’s Sports sessions.
“Troublemaker” plays like a third-rate throwaway take of “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” except it’s not about America, it’s about Armstrong entertaining thoughts on being—you guessed it—a troublemaker.
In fact, “Troublemaker” is a perfect analogue to the current state of Green Day’s career. Gone is the punk attitude; Armstrong and company now have to fantasize about what it’s like to be badasses through the power of song. American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman would be so proud of this melding of troublemaking and Huey Lewis.
Disappointingly, ¡Uno! sounds like Green Day can’t decide whether or not they want to spend the rest of their lives wooing VH1-addicted housewives in wood-paneled PT Cruisers or seasoned punk vets in leather jackets adorned with yellowed Descendents patches.
Upon the conclusion of ¡Uno!, one thing is glaringly clear: What edge the band ever had has turned into a pillow fight from an ’80s slumber party movie. It literally embarrasses me to have ever liked this band, to have ever tried to convince my mom to play Dookie in her minivan on out-of-town trips.
Moreover, ¡Uno! made me realize that under my mother’s guise of hatred for wildly colored hair, she was right about these turkeys from the get-go. Guys and gals, your mom was right the whole time. About music. Think about that for a while.