Sunday, December 30, 2012

Round two: Green Day make a splash

album review

Band: Green Day
Album: ¡Dos!

Their touring plans may have been postponed following Billie Joe Armstrong’s onstage meltdown and subsequent stint in rehab, but the unveiling of their three-albums-in-four-months project continues unabated with the release of ¡Dos!, the second disc in the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! series.

¡Uno!, the first part of the trilogy, reminded listeners that the group may have been delving into rock operas of late, but they can still churn out a set of fun pop rock ditties, taking us back to the sound that swathed their ‘90s offerings. Like on the first installment, the pop rockers still retain the vigor of their old, pre-American Idiot selves on this follow-up, but unlike ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! seems slightly less concerned with being breezy power pop, and displays a tad more edge and variety. Mostly there isn’t a dramatic shift in direction, just a slight tilt towards a more garage rock oriented sound.

The songs on the set are variously hedonistic and cautionary. Billie Joe Armstrong sings about reckless partying and he sings about its pitfalls which seem all the more resonant given his current circumstances; perhaps the songs’ underlying darkness becomes more apparent in light of how things have unfurled for the singer during the last few months.

First single, ‘Stray Heart’, a straightforward, catchy tune, is business as usual for the California rockers, and the energetic jaunt of songs like ‘Stop When the Red Lights Flash’, ‘Wild One’, ‘Baby Eyes’, and ‘Wow! That’s Loud’ continues the rock ‘n’ roll party while exuding the standard Green Day charm.

Elsewhere though, the change in direction becomes more apparent. The hip hop of the peculiar ‘Nightlife’ - the group’s awkward collaboration with rapper Lady Cobra - goes for a sound that is better left to the Gorillaz, although it does show that the band is trying something different; not necessarily impressive, but definitely different. The Strokes reminiscent ‘Lazy Bones’ and The White Stripes tinged ‘Lady Cobra’ - that, thankfully, does not feature Lady Cobra - see the band take a brisk trip to the garage. And the somber album closer ‘Amy’, a tribute to Amy Winehouse, brings the album to a seemingly heartfelt, albeit a tad listless, end.

As an album, ¡Dos! is more interesting and varied but less poppy than ¡Uno!, and its content carries darker undertones beneath the surface. Its overall effect brings Green Day’s side project Foxboro Hot Tubs to mind, which isn’t surprising since it even includes a track that started as a Foxboro tune. It may be more scruffy than ¡Uno!, but it certainly feels more polished than Stop Drop and Roll!. As for the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! project on the whole, the presence of fillers in the set is becoming more apparent as we go along. Green Day aren’t writing about matters of grave importance or creating grand rock operas here, but they certainly know how to make catchy, enjoyable music. And while some of the songs on ¡Dos! don’t stay with the listener quite like some of the group’s more immediate ditties do, there are enough interesting songs on this set to keep you interested in the trilogy and looking forward to its next installment.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 30th December, 2012

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