Released as the first part of a trilogy, Green Day’s ¡Uno! is a sharp slash of pop-punk and dance music.
The follow-up to the politically-charged duo of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown finds Billie Joe Armstrong (guitars, vocals), Mike Dirnt (bass, vocals) and Tre Cool (drums, vocals) looking to let their hair down and have a little fun.
There will be those who’ll decry ¡Uno! for its perceived lack of impact, but this brush with the lighter side seems right on target. Green Day is back to revelling in the less consequential, into tackling the suburban ennui that laid the foundation for Idiot and brought Tommy-like theatrics to the fore.
It is reasonable to view the less ruthless ¡Uno! as a step back in time, but the fact remains that these are some damn good songs. There’s no telling how this will function as part of a larger trilogy or how the East Bay punks will pull these tunes into their evolutionary scale, but their ninth studio album makes for an energetic listen while those questions linger.
Green Day has clearly learned from its experiences and it shows in the finer details of ¡Uno!, whether through its U2 glimpses (“Troublemaker”) or even its dirtied-up Broadway flavour. At the same time, there are Dookie pieces floating around (gross imagery intended) and plenty of soft vulnerability for after the party (“Sweet 16”).
The replacement of high concept with high energy is apparent from the outset, with “Nuclear Family” seemingly written with the sole intention of digging in as an earworm radio single. “I just want some action, so give me my turn,” sings Armstrong over rolling guitars and Cool’s resolute beat.
Dance music rears its weirdly fitting head on “Kill the DJ,” a four-on-the-floor jaunt that with a Smiths edge (yep) and a lot of good old-fashioned cursing. Green Day fits the groove well and Armstrong’s snarl, coupled with a decent falsetto, digs in to the “vultures of the culture war” with fangs bared.
Also featured is “Oh Love,” one of the best songs in recent Green Day memory. The lead single is a deceptively simple cartwheel back to the garage, a lyrically lovely number that tenderly nods at The Who while sticking to its own “21 Guns.”
¡Uno! appears an effective compilation of the parts of Green Day thus far, emerging as a satisfying but not overly ambitious first part that should fit the larger whole to come. With ¡Dos! set for a November 13 release and ¡Tré! ready to launch in January of 2013, the cheeky trio’s best and most ambitious work could be well underway after all.