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Uno!: mediocre yet catchy

Mac Hendrickson | Wednesday, October 3, 2012


During a 1997 record signing at Tower Records Manhattan, upset that several critics were bashing their punk cred, Green Day started a riot, or perhaps more accurately, threw a temper tantrum. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong sprayed-painted some nasty words on the storefront window and mooned the audience, while drummer Tre Cool hurled his bass drum into the crowd. All three punk rockers were placed in time-out for several hours.

These acts of childish rebellion have peppered Green Day’s career despite their impressive and noteworthy catalogue. Many of the high-profile disturbances coincided with poor album releases, because nothing sells albums like some solid vandalism. So it didn’t bode well for the artistic integrity of “Uno!” when Armstrong, a few days before the album’s release, caused a scene at iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas when their set was cut short to accommodate Usher. 

Two days later, Armstrong headed to rehab for substance abuse. Thus, there may be more to the story than a childish attempt at attention. However, somewhere in the recesses of his stoned-out cortex, Armstrong must have had an inkling that smashing his guitar on stage couldn’t hurt sales for his terrifically mediocre album. 

There are two types of Green Day fans. The first is always romanticizing about the old Green Day, as if 1994 was 1967. The second joined the bandwagon 10 years later in 2004 with the band’s release of the pop landmark “American Idiot.”

Neither type of fan will enjoy this album very much, which is a shame. If Green Day even had a target audience, they certainly were not catering to it while recording the album. “Uno!” is the first in an album trilogy. The next two, “Dos!” and “Tre!” will be released in two and four months time, respectively. 

The album is full of contradictions. It’s jam packed with radio-friendly pop blasts that no one will be hearing on the radio. The thematic material of youthful revolt is heavily contradicted by Armstrong’s obnoxious use of profanity. In fact, a great amount of the album sounds like a pathetic attempt to come off as punk despite the fact Armstrong may or may not be reading from Bethany Cosentino’s journal. It’s all perfectly parallel to their antics in the 90s.

The thematic material of all the songs is nauseatingly both homogenous and obvious. The lyrical content is as uninteresting and uncomplicated as 50s radio. Almost every song has the same basic idea, which not coincidentally is the same idea as “Burnout” on “Dookie,” a far better song than anything on “Uno!” The whole “we’re running out of time so let’s make love, live our lives as fast as we can and let go” mentality gets juiced to a mush. 

This isn’t to say the album is devoid of good tracks. Armstrong, though at his thematic worst, is at his melodic best. Everything is catchy. Any song would be a solid candidate to oust Ms. Swift from the radio spotlight – if people still cared about punk, that is. Beyond the general “acceptability,” two songs are noteworthy, and two are fantastic. “Carpe Diem” and “Rusty James” best represent the lovable pop sound that permeates the album in uninteresting grandiosity. And the bookend tracks, “Nuclear Family” and “Oh Love,” are power-punk blasts that might last longer in your memory than, say, a Reese’s. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the material on the album.

Here’s the problem. Green Day is not Blink 182. It’s not enough to just write catchy songs. Not in my book. These are the guys that shook the pop world not once, but twice. These are the guys who spearheaded one of the most profitable sub-genres of the 90s and aughts, and engineered one the definitive pop albums of the Bush era. 

It’s okay, guys. We won’t desert you. We’re not mad. Just disappointed. And no one has high expectations for the next two albums, in case you were wondering.

Contact Mac Hendrickson at mhendri1@nd.edu