Eight years ago, Green Day exploded from near-obscurity after their post-Dookie decline to rockstar superstardom following the release of the now Broadway-approved political epic American Idiot. Since then, and for most of their career, the East Bay natives have faced criticism for selling out their punk appeal to major-label record execs (see Insomniac’s autobiographical “86,” which details their banning from local punk mecca 924 Gilman). But ever since releasing the less focused quasi-concept 21st Century Breakdown, rumors have circulated that the power trio are going back to roots the other Armstrong (Tim, of fellow Bay punk rockers Rancid) might be more keen to indulge in.
The first part of their three-album frenzy, ¡Uno!, isn’t exactly Operation Ivy, but it’s a deliberate step away from the vague political leanings of Idiot and Breakdown. The band’s ninth studio effort has no underlying theme, no St. Jimmy and no Christian. Instead, Rodeo’s own Billie Joe pleads for us to “Stay the Night” and reminisces about his perennial “Sweet 16.” The songs feel somewhat out of place coming from 40-year-old, tattoo-sleeved men suffering from midlife crises, but it’s clear that the album’s intention isn’t to blow the listener away with thoughtful banter. Musically, Green Day are as succinct as ever, indulging in their trademark power chord nostalgia with satisfying results. Album opener “Nuclear Family” is one of the band’s catchiest tracks of the decade, and “Loss of Control” is blissfully simple, though unfortunately some of the album suffers from a dose of overproduction.
In some places, the album awkwardly treads into familiar chord progressions (compare “Carpe Diem” and “Before the Lobotomy”), and occasionally the lyrical inconsequence of certain tracks is cringe-inducing (“Kill The DJ”). But “Let Yourself Go” may as well have been the theme song for the band, and the result is an overall relieving one, given the somewhat over-reaching thematic and musical content of their previous two releases.
Damian is the assistant editor of Arts & Entertainment. Contact him at [email protected]