Who could have guessed that Green Day’s antidote to the ambitious and pretentious concept albums that have occupied their past decade would turn out to be just as ambitious and pretentious? Even though they claimed that the trio of albums they’d be releasing within three months of each other would be back-to-basics collections of short, snappy songs, the entire notion of three-albums-in-three-months is more than just a little conceited.

It certainly didn’t help that the first two albums -- '¡Uno!’ and ‘¡Dos!’ -- were mostly filled with uninspired songs that steered from one side of the rock spectrum (loud and fast punk) to the other (sappy ballads) without much purpose. As the project chugged along, hope for the final record, '¡Tre!' quickly waned. But apparently they were saving the best new songs for last.

Make no mistake -- '¡Tre!' isn’t ‘Dookie’; it isn’t even ‘American Idiot.’ But its 12 songs find a little bit of the heart and soul that were so crucially missing from the other two albums. And by nodding to pop music’s past – from R&B legends to ‘60s classic rockers to various punk icons – Green Day’s distilled history lesson caps the trilogy with style, even if that style is mostly borrowed.

‘Brutal Love,’ the opening track, is five minutes of SoCal soul music swelling over velvety strings, weighty piano chords and Billie Joe Armstrong trying his nasally voiced-white-guy best to pull off ‘60s R&B. From there, '¡Tre!' takes on classic-rock guitar riffs (‘Missing You’), modern-day indie rock (‘8th Avenue Serenade’) and even a six-minute suite (‘Dirty Rotten Bastards’), because rock-opera bombast still runs through their veins.

More so than ’¡Uno!’ and ‘¡Dos!’ '¡Tre!' doesn’t come off like an apology to old fans for ‘American Idiot’ and ‘21st Century Breakdown.’ There are few halfhearted punk throwaways or dirty jokes here, and the hooks are more immediate. It’s a grownup set of songs about growing up and being OK with it. Armstrong still can’t resist tossing out a few snotty cuts (see ‘Sex, Drugs & Violence’), but he doesn’t force them this time. Like almost everything else on '¡Tre!' they don’t sound like Green Day are out to prove anything. It’s the back-to-basics rock album they promised.

7 out of 10 diffuser.fm rating

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