If we learnt one thing from their recent career collecting eight album box set, it’s that the Green Day story has taken a dramatic arc. From so-so punks to extraordinarily successful punks in the space of three records, they took a nose dive before gathering themselves with the underrated Warning and returning in spectacular fashion with American Idiot – still a piece of work capable of stopping you in your tracks eight years later. If they’d wanted to go out on a high that was the moment but, as we know, that rarely happens and so the story carried on, leading to the equally ambitious yet far inferior 20th Century Breakdown.
Even so, Green Day’s next move is another unexpected one. Three albums over the course of five months, implying that the well of ideas has yet to run dry. That implication, however, may not be entirely accurate as ¡Uno! turns out to be their most straightforward, unimaginative record since Dookie. Given the success of that particular release and the creative slide last time out you can see the thinking behind the move but given that American Idiot proved they could combine brains and hit singles, it’s still a disappointing move.
So instead of the talked of genre busting, magpie approach to music, volume one of the project is pretty much a one trick pony. Sure it bursts into life with the invigorating ‘Nuclear Family’ and ‘Stay The Night’ (reminiscent of their Foxboro Hot Tubs side project), the novelty soon wears off. It takes until the fifth track ‘Kill The DJ’ for them to mix it up, a Franz Ferdinand ‘Take Me Out’ riff leading into a ska tune with a bizarre, radio baiting lyric and then again until the final, Celtic rock tinged ‘Oh Love’. In fact, the words are where ¡Uno! falls particularly short. Where in the past he has proven himself insightful and intelligent, here Billie Joe Armstrong seems keen to rewind the clock and connect with younger, more carefree times. Which is all very well, but do we need a succession of F-words directed at matters of little consequence?
And that’s what ¡Uno! ultimately is: inconsequential. While high energy punk rock has its place (and this is a reasonable example of the genre), it highlights the conflict that has been at the heart of Green Day since their return to grace – the battle between the band who want to bring down the government and the one who just want to fool around. The latter have won out here yet have lost a lot of their spark in the process. Maybe there is more to come over the months ahead, but this trilogy has got off to a faltering start.