Sunday, November 25, 2012

The brilliance of Green Day

album review

There's no shortage of catchy tunes on ¡Uno!, as Billie Joe Armstrong and co. unleash a rapid-fire punk assault in the form of 12 tracks laden with sharp power pop hooks that speak of love, alienation, and wistfulness

Band: Green Day
Album: ¡Uno!

Everyone who has been following Green Day since the band's inception in the late '80s knows that the group has received both adoration and derision over the years. Their brand of punk rock has pop running through its veins which has made them popular with the mainstream audience, even though their authenticity has often been called into question by punk purists. But it is a testament to their staying power that more than two decades after they first joined forces, the group from California still remains both popular and relevant, thanks in part to their resurgence following the release of the rock opera that formed their seventh studio album American Idiot in 2004.

Their rock opera self-indulgence, however, may have overstayed its welcome with 21st Century Breakdown (2009), leaving a question mark over the future direction the band would take. What exactly do you do after releasing two rock operas in a row?

You release three new studio albums in the span of four months, of course.

The ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tre! trilogy sees Green Day undertake an ambitious project, and reunites them with longtime producer Rob Cavallo. The first instalment of the series, ¡Uno!, takes the group back to the sound that initially made them successful, offering a set of songs that give a casual nod to the likes of The Clash, The Who, and the Ramones. The songs here would be at home on one of the band's earlier albums. The flag bearers of pop punk are back to what they initially set out to do; it's Green Day sans the pretence of their last few releases, making songs that will be hard to resist for fans that fell for the band in the '90s.

There's no shortage of catchy tunes on ¡Uno!, as Billie Joe Armstrong and co. unleash a rapid-fire punk assault in the form of 12 tracks laden with sharp power pop hooks that speak of love, alienation, and wistfulness. From the brisk opener 'Nuclear Family' to the old school anthem 'Oh Love' that brings the record to a close, the attack is both immediate and relentless. The anthemic 'Carpe Diem' is perhaps the most immediate tune on the record, and 'Let Yourself Go' is possibly the most contagious. 'Kill the DJ' channels Franz Ferdinand but adds profane recklessness to the mix; 'Troublemaker' urges you to clap along; and songs like 'Angel Blue' and 'Rusty James' hark back to their Nimrod (1997) era sound.

Some songs are perhaps a tad too reminiscent to a couple of tracks from their back catalogue, and at times it may feel like they're simply rehashing old tunes, but that is also why the album will work for those who loved the band in their pre-American Idiot days. ¡Uno! may seem predictable and dutiful, and it does miss the nuances of their more recent work, but its sense of deja vu also works in its favour, with its strong nostalgic rush offering a sort of comfort to its listeners. And it is part of a trilogy (with ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! set to follow in November and December respectively), so its overall effect will become more apparent when all three discs are out, and it will be interesting to see how it fits in with the complete project.

For now though, it's safe to say that ¡Uno! is a set of fast paced and reliable tunes that combine catchy melodies with tight instrumentation and make good use of the group's pop punk sensibilities while trying to recapture their early spirit. This isn't an ambitious, grandiose rock opera. This isn't an experimental record. And this certainly isn't a cerebral album. ¡Uno! is simply an album you can (and are meant to) enjoy. It's catchy, contagious, and fun, and it is what it is by design. And while it sees them take a step away from their politically charged rock opera projects, ¡Uno!'s hit of nostalgia is likely to make it a treat for their long time fans.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 25th November, 2012

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