Green Day has long been criticized for its lack of creativity. The trio has been around since the late 1980s and, for the most part, its songs have been consistently built around the same formula — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Though this song structure might seem painfully simple and predictable, Green Day is the perfect example of a band living hard by the ethos “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Love or hate them, the fact of the matter is that Green Day actually has something that other pop-punk acts don’t: credibility. Formed when its members were teenagers, the trio was part of the legendary 924 Gilman Street scene in Berkeley, Calif. Countless iconic punk bands emerged from that movement, including Operation Ivy, Rancid, Bad Religion, Fugazi, Bikini Kill, L7, NOFX and The Offspring. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong even co-wrote Rancid’s 1993 hit “Radio Radio Radio” and was offered a position as the second guitarist for the illustrious punk band, but he turned it down to focus on Green Day (Rancid recruited Lars Frederiksen in Billie Joe Armstrong’s place and the rest, of course, is history).
When Green Day achieved fame with 1994’s Dookie, the band’s newfound celebrity garnered an intense and borderline crazy reaction from the Gilman scene; famously, a disgruntled fan had spray painted “Billie Joe Must Die” on a wall at the venue. Green Day has been dealing with accusations of selling out for almost 20 years, but the group has chosen to use the hate to refuel its music, churning out hit after hit and single-handedly inspiring the new wave of pop-punk bands, including Blink-182, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy, among others.
All the drama concerning Green Day in the punk scene notwithstanding, the band has still maintained its style, refusing to change for anyone. Fans who pop in the new release ¡Uno! and then the 1990 debut 39/Smooth, will be struck by how similar the two albums sound. After Green Day -directed hate in the punk scene wore down, the band started to get criticism about not changing its style, but, as can be seen on the band’s latest and ninth studio album, Green Day clearly couldn’t care less.
¡Uno!, as the name suggests, is the first in a trilogy of punk power pop albums for the band. After a commercially unsuccessful dabble in different genre styles with 2000’s Warning, the band changed its carefree, snarky music into political rock operas with 2004’s hugely successful and acclaimed American Idiot, which spawned a Broadway production that won two Tony Awards, and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. After all the theatricality and social awareness of the band’s last two albums, Green Day has refreshingly gone back to its roots of good old-fashioned and brazen pop-punk.
Though it’s great to see the band go back to the types of songs that made it famous, ¡Uno! is slightly underwhelming and definitely not the best album in the group’s discography. The record starts out on a strong note with the upbeat, this-is-the-Green-Day-we-know-and-love opener “Nuclear Family,” but then begins to fade into mediocrity to the point where it starts to sound like a rip-off of earlier hits. “Carpe Diem” would be a great track if it didn’t sound like a medley of various past songs in the band’s discography. Songs like “Fell For You,” “Angel Blue” and “Rusty James” have the potential to be larger-than-life, but end up falling short and settling in as disappointingly pedestrian, while “Stay The Night” affirmatively answers the question of whether it’s possible for a song to be too poppy.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any good tracks on the record. The smarmy, foot-tapping arrogance of “Loss Of Control” and the Johnny Rotten-ish vocals on the beat-heavy “Troublemaker” are filled with the defiance that made the band famous. Lead single “Oh Love” is Green Day at its best — a theatrical closer that calls listeners to spark their lighters and hold them high.
Though the songs have such an over-uniformity that they sometimes start to blend into each other, in the middle of all the homogeneity lies “Kill The DJ,” which stands out as a satirical testament to the current mindless state of music production. The music is ironically poppy, complete with a top-40 melody, falsetto in the bridge and a ska-tinged chorus.
Compared to previous albums, ¡Uno! is more conspicuously littered with swearing and trite proclamations of defiance. Sometimes, the record just sounds plain bratty. Considering that the trio is made up of men who are hovering around their 40s, the album is borderline ridiculous.
But at the same time, this is Green Day’s trademark — one that the group has built an empire on. So if these are the ingredients to success, by all means stock up on the guyliner and punk hair wax, and don’t tell your parents — ¡Uno! is just the beginning of what promises to be an enjoyable reliving of all the fun parts of teenage angst.