Green Day, ‘Uno’ – Album Review
Green Day are in a weird place. Days before releasing the first of a trio of albums, Billie Joe Armstrong, the long-running band’s 40-year-old frontman, threw a fit when their iHeartRadio set was cut short. And Armstrong, who has been described as “eschewing drugs,” has just checked into a rehab clinic. Amid all of this comes an album with his face on the cover: ‘¡Uno!’
The album was written in what Armstrong has described as the band’s most prolific and creative period. Having set out to write a single album, they considered a double before finally deciding to do three, a la Van Halen. The reason: The “songs kept coming. In the military, there’s a phrase for this: mission creep. That’s where a unit sets out to accomplish a single, attainable goal, and then they do more, and a little more, and they end up squandering the opportunity afforded by the original plan. We don’t yet have access to ‘¡Dos!’ and ‘¡Tre!’ (which, by the way, will feature the respective mugs of bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool as their cover art), but after listening to the first, it's a safe assumption that three is too many.
Though full of the taut, three-chord punk the band have been producing since the late ‘80s, the album feels bloated, especially in its second half, where 'Troublemaker,’ ‘Angel Blue’ and ‘Sweet 16’ are virtually indistinguishable. That’s not to say the album is without its highlights. The first three promotional singles -- released in the order of ‘Oh Love,’ which gives Armstrong some room for successful balladeering; the sort of ska dance track ‘Kill the DJ'; and most of all ‘Let Yourself Go,’ which in its opening roar and harmony chorus score an old-school SoCal skate-punk sound -- reveal the group's practiced hands.
While most of the album is light compared to the drama of 2004's ‘American Idiot,’ a bit of socioeconomic commentary makes it into ‘Carpe Diem,’ in which Armstrong shows a rye lyricism, singing lines like, “Life’s a gas / and it’s running out.” The thesis here, though, lies in the chorus of ‘Rusty James,’: “When there’s no one left around / and we’re the last gang in town." Green Day, more than anything, have shown incredible longevity. If only they’d show a little more discretion in the songs they release.