Album review: Green Day forgoes the political rock operas and lets loose on ‘¡Uno!’

Green Day
“¡Uno!”
Reprise

“¡Uno!” plays as an exuberant, physical release after several years of Green Day’s devotion to political punk-rock operas.

Despite being released as the first in a trilogy of albums, Green Day’s ninth studio album offers no epic song suites whatsoever. Rather, the songs are lean and biting. Boiled down to power chords, breakneck tempos, snotty lyrics and probably some black electrical tape.

As a result “¡Uno!” makes itself much more effective than its predecessor, “21st Century Breakdown.” The album opener “Nuclear Family” stands as a manifesto for the straightforward approach of the album, and takes certain explosive liberties with the idea of the nuclear family along the way. Only vague political overtones pop up throughout the album, which otherwise alludes to and often lampoons the more mundane aspects of modern society. Whether tackling lackluster pop culture or unpleasant blasts from the past encounters, Billie Joe Armstrong spits out something rude and poignant about it all.

Although not as humorous as the band’s early material, the smart-ass and bratty lyrics Armstrong once perfected appear splattered all over and throughout each song. Combined with the hyperactive performance, Green Day sounds in prime form. Songs like “Let Yourself Go,” “Carpe Diem” and “Loss of Control” all set the hectic pace of the album and pile-drive any notion of the group’s past pretensions. This is Green Day having fun.

The band’s 1997 album “Nimrod” may be a quick and easy comparison due to the inclusion of jumpy punk rockers, revamped oldies and an off-kilter song or two. Here, that off-kilter song takes the form of “Kill the DJ.” In the vein of the Clash or maybe Franz Ferdinand (who opened for Green Day circa 2004) the indie-dance song is difficult to take too serious and impossible to dismiss, but stands out as a catchy and bizarre moment regardless. The closing numbers of the album, “Sweet 16,” “Rusty James” and “Oh Love” each allow the hyper-romantic side of the band to poke its head out from the backseat of an old Chevy. “Rusty James” even revisits the bittersweet melody of “Scattered” from “Nimrod.”

Despite its similarities to “Nimrod” make no mistake that the band returns to any prior ’90s form. “¡Uno!” clearly etches yet another era in the 20-plus years of Green Day’s career. Moments throughout the album suggest Cheap Trick or the Clash, but are in no way rehashed or ripped off. Rather they appear more a sum of the many different parts of Green Day. A refreshing and exciting listen, “¡Uno!” belongs in the collection of old and new fans alike.

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