A couple of years ago, Green Day seemed to have painted themselves into a bit of a corner. After their politically charged rock-opera American Idiot rightfully restored them to prominence, the question of how to follow up such a late-career masterstroke was always going to be a tricky one to answer. Unfortunately, with 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day took the most maddeningly literal route possible. How do you top an hour long concept album about the trials and tribulations of disenfranchised youth in a post 9/11 world? By releasing an hour and a half long concept album about the trials and tribulations of disenfranchised youth in a post 9/11 world of course! Though 21st Century Breakdown had a few great songs buried in the slog, it felt like the first Green Day album born from a sense of grim-faced duty and it suffered as a result. Green Day had painted themselves into a corner and it seemed uncertain that they would ever paint their way out again. Thankfully they haven’t even tried. With ¡Uno! Green Day have simply relieved the pressure by recording a set of silly, snotty pop-punk songs with no grand ambition other than to entertain you.
Of course, that’s not strictly true. ¡Uno! Is to be the first of a trilogy of albums Green Day is to be releasing in the next few months which means the band has obviously recorded a gargantuan amount of material. But the fact they haven’t felt the need to cram in some sort of over-arching storyline into these songs, (or constantly name check people called Christian and Gloria for lack of an actual narrative) means that this is the most laid-back, pretence-free set of songs the band has released in over a decade.
Tracks like Nuclear Family and Let Yourself Go wouldn’t have sounded that out of place on Dookie and the whole album gives off a frenetic, devil may care attitude. There’s nothing revelatory here, just track after track of three-chord goodness. The band is equal parts aggressive (Let Yourself Go, Loss Of Control) and wide-eyed (Fell For You, Sweet 16) and make a surprisingly good effort of sounding 20 years younger. Even the album’s lacklustre singles make sense when heard this way (Kill The DJ’s disco skank keeps things varied and Oh Love works far better as a bombastic closer than it does a stand-alone release) and I’ll gladly go on record to say that Stay The Night is easily the best pure pop song they’ve done since Haushinka back on 1997’s Nimrod. The vibe does drop slightly at the half way mark with the perfectly solid Loss Of Control, Troublemaker and Angel Blue sort of bleeding into each other a bit too much, but then the gorgeously wistful Sweet 16 sweeps in and demands your attention once more.
Green Day really aren’t reinventing the wheel here. They’ve done this sort of thing dozens of times before, but for now at least it’s good to know that they can still do this sort of thing. Your turn, ¡Dos!