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¡Dos!’- Green Day’s garage band greatness

Jesus Mendoza | Thursday, November 29, 2012

Few active bands can say they’ve been relevant for more than a decade. Five years, maybe 10 in mainstream popularity and a band can rest peacefully in the knowledge that it’s had a good run. But then there’s Green Day.
Hailing from a time when the ‘M’ in MTV actually meant music, Green Day has been dishing out its lovably vulgar brand of punk rock to audiences since its formation in 1987, achieving breakthrough success with its major label debut album “Dookie” in 1994. Since then, six albums and almost two decades have led to the band’s most recent entry, “¡Dos!,” part of an ambitious trilogy of albums currently being released over the course of a few months.
“¡Dos!” has been described by front man Billie Joe Armstrong as the band’s attempt at the garage rock subgenre, focusing on an unfiltered and visceral sound throughout the album, a welcome detour from previous stadium rock anthems seen in “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown.”
This raw feel is perfectly showcased in the minute-long introduction “See You Tonight,” a quick, melancholy piece that consists only of Armstrong’s vocals and a clean, undistorted electric guitar, refreshing in its unproduced sound and simplicity. A live version of this track would sound nearly identical to the album recording, a quality missing from many acts nowadays.
The band returns to its usual crude, inappropriate self for “Stop When the Red Lights Flash” and “Lazy Bones,” a pair of loud, fast entries dealing with disillusionment and tiredness, candid in showing Armstrong’s snotty attitude that one can’t help but love. Brash and abrupt, songs like “Makeout Party” and “F*** Time” leave even less work for the imagination.
The album’s only single, “Stray Heart,” presents a more vulnerable, heartbroken image of Armstrong. Built upon an upbeat, springy bass line, it’s obvious through the track’s cleaner language and contagious chorus that this is a venture into pop territory. Although it’s understandable that the band needed a more radio-friendly track to promote the album, it would have been nice to see Green Day stick to the garage sound purported to be the focus of “¡Dos!” Either way, the song will stick in listeners’ minds.
“Nightlife” is the most interesting experiment on the set list, a slower track with an offbeat guitar, heavy bass line, and guest vocals from Lady Cobra, lead singer of the relatively unknown band Mystic Knights of the Cobra. Lady Cobra’s provocative rapping and Armstrong’s distorted vocals give a more ska punk sound, reminiscent of fellow 90s band Sublime. Just as racy as other tracks, this is a successful risk into previously unexplored influences for Green Day, a sound that they can hopefully expand in later albums.
Armstrong’s best and most heartfelt track has to be “Amy,” a tribute to the late artist Amy Winehouse. Like “See You Tonight,” the song consists of just Armstrong’s vocals and a guitar. Painfully sweet in his call for Amy to be his friend, Armstrong beautifully paints his anguish over the loss of the artist. Listening to his honest lyrics, one can practically see Armstrong onstage, alone with his guitar, strumming in a lone spotlight. This song would not be out of place on the Ed Sullivan Show for its true soulfulness and purity.
Green Day has provided another fine entry into its decade’s old repertoire, boldly embracing new styles while still maintaining its tried and true image with loyal fans. It’s great to see that the band has retained its creativity across the years, and will surely do so with the upcoming and final installment of its trio of albums.
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