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Green Day - 'Uno' Review

Veteran Trio Say Goodbye to Rock-Opera Excess

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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green day uno review

Green Day - 'Uno!'

Photo courtesy Reprise.
After putting out two celebrated, ambitious, bombastic concept albums, Green Day strip things down a bit for Uno! Containing 12 songs that swing with a let-‘er-rip garage-rock spirit, the album lacks the bold thematic sweep of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, and consequently it may be dismissed in some quarters as anticlimactic. Nonetheless, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and his mates’ continued ability to slam out incredibly catchy rock tunes remains impressive, resulting in a record that breezes by with stunning confidence.

Tight Pop-Rock Hooks

American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown unabashedly chronicled the hopes and fears of post-9/11 young Americans, and in the process rejuvenated the commercial and creative fortunes of Green Day, who had been one of the 1990s’ most productive alt-rock acts before falling into a bit of a lull at the turn of the century. But Uno! steps away from the rock-opera theatrics of those two discs, delivering tight pop-rock hooks without an overarching narrative to tie it all together. Instead, the album (which is the first of three that will be heading our way over the next few months) celebrates youthful rebellion and unrequited love without trying to putting them into a broader social or political context. To the casual listener, Uno! may seem dashed-off, but the consistency of its fleet tunes doesn’t happen by accident: There’s real craftsmanship in its construction.

No Ballads, All Rockers

In a sense, Uno! recalls the band’s early multi-platinum successes like Dookie, which piled one punk-pop chestnut on top of another. But while the new album has a punk dimension to it, over time Green Day have broadened their sound, and Uno! reflects that more mainstream aesthetic. The opening track, “Nuclear Family,” has the same roaring intensity as “American Idiot,” and the rest of the album focuses on easily digestible, highly effective up-tempo rock songs. Uno! doesn’t waste time with ballads; you get the sense that these guys wanted to remind everybody that deep down they’re still the bratty goof-offs their fans fell in love with 20 years ago.

Mature Without Being Mature

Of course, Armstrong isn’t the same guy he was back then. If the lyrics on Dookie reflected the mindset of a self-deprecating loser wanting to take over the world, Uno! comes from the perspective of a rich rock star who’s just turned 40. Happily, that doesn’t mean that the new songs come filled with boring, navel-gazing insights into adulthood. Rather, the singer does a commendable job of capturing rock ‘n’ roll’s energy without trying to pretend he’s still that snotty young punk. This comes through most strongly on “Sweet 16,” which reminisces about the past while realizing that those days can’t ever be brought back. Even the first single, “Oh Love,” brandishes a radio-ready riff that belies the song’s subtle musings about the need for love to make sense of the world. In the best way possible, Armstrong has embraced maturity without worrying about being “mature.”

Flipping the Script

Because Uno! mostly traffics in straightforward rockers, a sense of sonic sameness can creep in on occasion. (This, of course, was a complaint leveled at Dookie back in the day.) Perhaps that’s why one of the album’s standout cuts, “Kill the DJ,” flips the script a bit, finding Green Day try their hand at dance-rock. To be sure, the emphasis is more on “rock” than on “dance,” but the tune’s swinging beat is a welcome curve ball on an album that’s a bit monolithic in its approach.

Enjoy the Ear Candy

At this stage of their career, Green Day were faced with either having to top their recent releases in ambition or dialing things back a bit. With Uno!, they’ve opted for the latter, but there’s nothing cynical about that strategy. In the span of about 41 minutes, they deliver potential hit after potential hit, endless ear candy with some substance underneath. Some people will complain that this all comes rather easily to Green Day. Then how come more bands don’t do it this well?

'Uno!' - Best Tracks:

“Kill the DJ” (Purchase/Download)
“Sweet 16” (Purchase/Download)
“Nuclear Family” (Purchase/Download)
“Rusty James” (Purchase/Download)
“Troublemaker” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – September 25, 2012
Reprise Records

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