Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Green Day-- ¡Uno! / ¡Dos! / ¡Tré!
(Reprise, 2012)

by Zee Whitsides

I always want to think that I like Green Day. Dookie and Insomniac were some of the most important pop-punk albums of the 90s (if perhaps not quite among the greatest), wonderfully balancing the early melodic punk of Bay Area bands like Crimpshrine and Cringer/J Church with more accessible power pop like Cheap Trick. And the albums that came before and immediately after those two certainly had a lot of great songs, if they weren’t quite as forceful. But after American Idiot, which had the right kind of energy but often collapsed under its messianic ambitions and simplistic politics, Green Day’s other balancing trick began to fall apart. When they’re good, they tap into both a righteous and real juvenile anxiety and yet keep it D-M-U-B enough to be radio stars. They’re one of America’s biggest bands, and they’re named after a weed joke. But this is harder to pull off when you’re older, and in American Idiot, Green Day started preaching at kids instead of singing with them. (For a compelling and sympathetic chronicle of Green Day’s post-American Idiot super-stardom, check out Aaron Cometbus’s In China with Green Day.) And by the time 21st Century Breakdown came around, it was pretty clear Billy Joe & crew didn’t have much clue of how to be grown-ups and still relate to younger people, how to manage both sides of the pop-punk equation.

So along come ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, ostensibly return-to-roots albums after the conceptual failures of 21st Century Breakdown. Each album is united only by a musical theme? the first power pop, the second garage-rock, the third more epic stadium rock. Green Day’s attempted this sort of revival before? the Foxboro Hot Tubs album, coming between American Idiot and 21st Century, was a slight but not-bad work of garage-rock, giving the band a chance to have some fun in between Important Messages. But this trilogy has a different feel-- they’re not aiming for anonymity and have essentially attempted to get back to a more basic music by making a fucking trilogy of albums. So: the most ambitious return-to-roots of all time, a three-album journey into trying to feel punk.

Honestly, my highest hopes for the albums were for a bit of dumb energy, without any self-importance or stakes-- just a big clearing-house to kick a bunch of tunes out and hopefully come to terms with getting older. ¡Uno! actually begins in this way, with “Nuclear Family” being a catchy and universal expression of anxiety and anger rather than a heavy-handed message about families or nuclear war. Sure, lyrics about angel’s piss, Billy Joe’s screams, and that final countdown deserve eye-rolls, but overall it’s a surprisingly well-made song. Unfortunately, “Stay the Night” goes on too long and immediately kills all momentum with its totally half-assed depiction of some vague Love That Was Not Meant To Be, and things only get more generic and cliched in “Carpe Diem” and “Let Yourself Go”. “Kill the DJ” is the album’s nadir, a weak Franz Ferdinand imitation with absolutely no danceability and no connection to the rest of the album. The rest of the album staggers on, with “Loss of Control” managing to get back to some of the unspecified yet committed resistance of “Nuclear Family” (and earlier Green Day albums). The lyrics are uniformly uninspiring, with a couple of otherwise pretty okay songs (“Angel Blue” and “Sweet 16“) ruined by terrible words (from “Angel Blue”: “Gonna build it up just to burn it down / You're a princess, I'm a fucking clown / Stop the presses cause I'm killing time / Won't you be my bloody valentine”). Closer “Oh Love” is about 20 BPM too slow and combines vapid words with classic rock pretensions. ¡Uno! isn’t terrible for the most part, just pretty forgettable. Aside from a couple good songs and a couple crappy ones, everything sounds like a B-side.

At least in ¡Uno!, Green Day comfortably slums it in the kind of power pop they did pretty well with on Nimrod and Warning. ¡Dos!, as the “garage-rock” album, should be the most tossed-off and least Green Day-ish of the three, and it is. Unfortunately, there’s little that’s actually garage-y or spontaneous about it-- it’s more often just lazy and embarrassing. The lyrics range from empty to abysmal throughout the album. On the former side is “Lazy Bones,” actually a decent if too long indie-ish song whose lyrical mundanity (“I’m too tired to be bored / I’m too bored to be tired”) ruins it; on the latter is the awful “Fuck Time”, whose chorus (“Oh baby baby it’s fuck time”) is probably the most cringe-worthy verbal turn in Green Day’s whole oeuvre. Then there‘s “Lady Cobra” and “Nightlife” (the latter of which features singer Lady Cobra, confusingly). “Lady Cobra” sounds like it’s going for a blooze-y boogie but it just sounds like Wolfmother. “Nightlife” is simply awful, even less danceable than “Kill the DJ”. Lady Cobra’s banal half-rapping dominates the song and mostly serves to prove that you need a lot of talent to rip-off Ke$ha (and Lady Cobra hasn’t got that). Honestly, there’s not a single song I really like on ¡Dos!, except maybe Billy Joe’s saccharine solo closer “Amy” as a guilty pleasure. The better songs musically like “Wow! That’s Loud,” “Lazy Bones,” and “Wild One” have such worthless lyrics that I can’t just enjoy them. Or maybe it’s just “Fuck Time,” “Makeout Party,” “Lady Cobra,” and “Nightlife” making all the other songs sound as bad as they are. If ¡Uno! already felt like a B-sides compilation, ¡Dos! is the songs not even good enough to make it on there.

¡Tré! has a lot of work to do to dig Green Day out of the pit of ¡Dos!, and being the “epic” one, perhaps had the most room to go wrong. Happily, it’s easily the best of the three, perhaps because Green Day is so used to going big that at this point they can’t do anything else. Yet a portion of ¡Tré! is not only tightly composed and produced, but also pretty pleasurable. The opening three songs are all strong and better than anything on the previous two. “Brutal Love” might be as dumb as “Oh Love”, but some time went into those horn arrangements, and it’s nice to hear the band embracing its budget and just making big pop. “8th Avenue Serenade” is a great modern power pop song plus Tre Cool’s hyper-propulsive drumming. (This is how you actually get people to move, Green Day.) The album sags a bit after that, with “Drama Queen” and “A Little Boy Named Train” again being good songs with bad lyrics, though more just misguided than like on ¡Uno! and ¡Dos! Other tracks are more forgettable, though it’s clear that here at least, some time was spent arranging them and writing classic rock guitar solos, and there’s not a lot of totally wasted moments. “Dirty Rotten Bastards,” the album’s multi-part centerpiece, actually works and it’s pretty satisfying. Mike Dirnt’s bass breaks provide nice texture and the transitions between sections are seamless. The lyrics are kinda dumb sloganeering, but there’s enough energy here (like the best moments of American Idiot) that Billy Joe’s sneer overcomes a lot of the simplistic societal critique (less so on Occupy Wall Street tie-in “99 Revolutions”). The album closes with “The Forgotten”, a track first released as the end-credits song to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. There’s not much to say about it other than that it makes sense to have the song close out one of the biggest book/film franchises of the last decade: it’s sentimental enough to make a lot of vampire-loving teenagers stay in their seats and think about Bella and Edward and a bland enough “Hey Jude” rip-off that no one dragged into seeing the film is going to be angry when it comes on.

A question that I asked myself a lot when listening to ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! for review was: Am I being too hard on Green Day? The trilogy as a whole is pretty mediocre, but the best moments of ¡Tré! and, to a lesser degree, ¡Uno! are as good as a lot of contemporary pop punk albums I listen to. Sure, the songs surrounding these best moments are often bad, but Green Day can still write a pretty good power pop song when they want. But Green Day wants more than that, and judged as a “big” band and one of the few bands who wants to make real crossover pop-punk, they’re simply not making very compelling work right now. I’m pretty sure that if the first two albums had been treated as chaff-clearing rehearsals and not actually released, ¡Tré! could have benefitted from a bit more time, attention, and horn parts. It seems to be pointing to a Big Green Day Album without a Big Green Day Concept, but a lot of the songs don’t feel like they’ve been given the polish necessary to be memorable. Maybe the next album will take the positives and make them more purposeful and integrated into a whole picture. Maybe they’ll just return to political/teen culture sloganeering. Either way, this trilogy has proved Green Day at this point is incapable of making anything light and satisfying; the trick is making a statement without making a ponderous, heavy-handed Statement. Here’s hoping they don’t waste so much time on mediocrity next time.

Green Day - !Tre! (Reprise)

by Phil Rainone

Green Day’s Hat Trick Pays off Big Time!

Three albums in three months is no small feat, especially when all three are good, solid, punk rock albums full of the DNA of early rock ‘n’ roll.

Green Day is a unique band. Besides being one of the flagship punk rock bands, they are also a band that you never know what to expect from them, and they do it on a grand scale for a major label. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard a bad Green Day album- a few mediocre songs here and there, but on the whole, every one of their records have been something to, “write home about,” as they say.

On !Tre! (which is a play on words for Tre Cool), Green Day once again does not disappoint. Here’s a band that you would assume could just about sing the phone book and get away with it. Instead, they challenge themselves and the listener. Green Day’s three-album run this year began with the exhilarating, all-abroad-for-fun time blast of !Uno!, and now it ends with a symphonic long goodbye. !Tre! picks up where it’s predecessor !Dos! left off: with a nod to soul pioneer Sam Cooke. “Brutal Love” channels Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me,” and its strings and Memphis-style horns deliver grandeur and depth to the song’s erotic desperation. The strings return for !Tre! ‘s closing song, “The Forgotten,” a five-minute piano ballad that unfolds like a lost track from the second side of The Beatles’ grand finale, Abby Road. “Don’t look away from the arms of love,” Billie Joe Armstrong sings, as he brings the trilogy in for a sweet, soft landing.

It’s telling that Green Day’s effort to pare back after a decade of rock-opera ambitions led to a three-record meditation on the meaning of punk rock music in the here and now. On !Tre! the references mount up.: Iggy, The Who, the Clash, R,E.M., Bowie, the Stones, and on and on. What makes all these musical influences so special is that Green Day doesn’t just throw them in as, “Oh, yeah, they influenced us, blah, blah, blah… They take those bands, their music, and their history and turn it into their own special mix without sanitizing the originals.-Not an easy thing to do.
“We started out so simple, but it turned into madness. We were just thinking about making a killer power-pop record-dirtier, back to basics,” said Armstrong, about the process of making all three albums.

“We tapped into our version of Exile on Main Street.”- Mike Dirnt

These three albums answer all the questions that were raised when Green Day announced earlier this year that they were going to release three new albums in the span of about three months. No band this sprawling, untamable, AND one that is having so much sheer fun all along the way, has ever accomplished so much before in rock music.


Uno! X 2

by Chris Mattern

In 1994 I was in junior high. My afternoon routine consisted of coming home from school and watching MTV until my mother got home from work. One day, as I was eating Doritos, drinking Pepsi, and in a TV trance of Guns N Roses, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, something happened. A band appeared on the TV that was everything I had been looking for. They were different. They had a melodic pop sound that reminded me of the oldies station I had grown up listening to in the back of Mom’s station wagon, all the while they were offensive, aggressive, and looked cool as hell with short dyed hair and clothes that looked like the ones Mom could afford to buy me at good will. They were called Green Day. The song was “Longview” and the album was Dookie.

The next day I found myself standing outside of CD City in Highland Park, Illinois trying to get someone to go inside and buy me the CD, as it was labeled with an explicit lyrics sticker and the guy behind the counter would never sell those CD’s to me without a parent present, and my mother wouldn’t buy me any CD’s featuring that dreaded black and white sticker. I got that CD when my friend’s older brother went in and purchased it for me, and within days all my other CD’s were coasters. Sometime shortly afterwards I was at the grocery store with my mother and she always let me pick out a magazine. I usually shot for Metal Edge or Guitar World but this time Green Day was on the cover of Hit Parader. In the two page spread about Green Day, this word PUNK kept popping up. Well, if Green Day was punk, I guess I liked punk. I started blindly buying CD’s from the PUNK section at the CD store. NOFX’s I heard they suck live!, Rancid’s Lets Go!, and several others soon became my regular rotation on the five-disc changer. It wasn’t long afterwards when I found out about a place about 20 minutes into the city called The Fireside Bowl. I caught my first show - Cletus, Apocalypse Hoboken, Assorted Jellybeans and Falling Sickness. The rest my friends were history, and it was all because of that fateful afternoon when I found myself standing in front of the TV in amazement watching these green and blue haired misfits beating on their guitars.

Over the years I have continued to follow Green Day, and to be honest, aside from a few singles, and the flat out amazing American Idiot punk/rock opera, I have continually been let down. Sure, great tunes like “Minority” and “Nice Guys Finish Last” have come from the band, but all and all, aside from American Idiot and the pre Dookie records which I eventually discovered and bought, a full Green Day record has yet to grab my attention.

Well, it’s almost 2013 and all my CD’s are useless; in fact, Spotify is my weapon of choice for music listening, and that’s how I stumbled across Uno!, the first of three brand new Green Day records that will be released before the end of the year. Friends, if you loved Green Day in 1994… you will love them once again. Opening with the radio friendly “Nuclear Family,” Green Day sounds 21 again. (And I’m not talking about that godawful “21 Guns” song either.) The spunk and fury that exposed an entire generation to the world of punk rock is back, and worth checking out, especially if you’re an old punk rocker that has become disenchanted with the new crowd which consists of boys who look like girls and the old guard giving up and grabbing acoustic guitars. Not a single tune on this record is bad. This is no concept record, but simply a stack of great pop punk tunes. The familiar sounds of Mike Dirnt’s backing vocals, Tre cool proving once again that he is the best drummer in rock music, and the inimitable croon of Billie Joe Armstrong come together beautifully and deliver the kind of punk rock record we fell in love with this band in the first place for.

“Let Yourself Go” and “Out of Control” will make you want to break shit. “Stay the Night” and “Fell For You” will make you want to cry. All and all the record will make you want to dance, sing along and turn it up as loud as fucking possible. This record is fun, to the point, fast, and well written. Even the semi experimental “Kill the DJ” which might throw you off at first will grow on you after the second spin through the album.

This is the band that carry’s the torch for the Ramones. This is the band that brought punk rock to the masses, and while many have ostracized them for that, we all know now that it was a good thing. Kids worldwide that never would have been into punk rock found a home because of this band. We all know that expecting a great punk rock band to stay underground is for fucking newbs and children anyway, so give up that attack. Join the team and come on in for the big win. This album is Green Day’s best record in 18 years, and the best thing I have heard in five.

by Phil Rainone

“We always want to move forward and get new experiences.”-Billy Joe Armstrong*

When it comes to the world of rock ‘n’ roll, truer words have rarely been spoken. Green Day isn’t releasing one new album, but three: a trio of separate discs, Uno!, Dos!, Tres!, staring now with obviously, Uno! And as a what-the-fuck moment, Billy Joe will be joining Team Christina as a mentor on the new season of The Voice (actually that may be a good thing. Hopefully Armstrong will bring a reality check to the pompous, asshole judges like CeeLo Green).

But despite his dip into “Reality TV,” and the three discs’ 37-song sprawl, the albums return the band to what Armstrong calls, “A raw punk rock sound- it was like the old days, us jamming in a room together.”*

If I didn’t have all this space to fill with a full-blown review of Uno!, that quote would be what this album in a nutshell! Chock-full of pop punk goodness, Green Day excites, delights, and overall they amp up the listener! If you had any doubts recently about the band’s two previous albums, their “rock opera era” is over, for now. Uno! Is a back-to-basics, meat-and-potatoes 13 song set of major thrill to any fan who’s been chomping at the bit for the old days when you could stomp, jump, and act like a Whirling Dervish listening to a new Green Day album! “…My roots are more rock dance like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” or the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.” We played a show in Berlin last night, and there were 20,000 people going completely insane. To me, the traditional style of playing rock & roll is still alive and well.”*

“Kill the DJ” is right up there with The Smiths “Hang the DJ,” or Bowie’s “DJ.” All three rockers are to-the-point tirades about the slimy crap that some DJ’s try to pass off as music. Funny, ironic, and yes, “It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it,” as Dick Clark use to say.

“Angel Blue” has an “I Fought the Law” cadence, and actually reinvigorates the Bobby Fuller Four’s melody, even more so than the Clash did with their cover of the original.
Then there’s “Sweet 16…” I can see it now, at just about every Sweet 16 party from now on, it’s gonna be as friggin’ popular as Green Day’s sad ballad, “Time of Your Life,” which is a really cool song, but got old really fast at Sweet 16 parties. Way overplayed!
Green Day have been around for nearly twenty years, and as middle age rockers, you can see and hear that like contemporaries like The Bouncing Souls, or Pearl Jam, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, is nowhere in sight. Like Springsteen and Dylan who are still kickin’ out the jams in their 60’s, I think Green day they’ll all be around for a long, long time!

*All quotes are form Billy Joe Armstrong’s Rolling Stone interview by David Brown is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

Jersey Beat Podcast

Home | Contact Jersey Beat | Sitemap

©2010 Jersey Beat & Not a Mongo Multimedia

Music Fanzine - Jersey Beat