Straight from the “trying something a little different department” here are some thoughts about Green Day’s latest, “Uno,” with a twist. The conversation below came as a result of me needing to talk about some music after being so disappointed with the new No Doubt album (one of my friend’s tweeted “I can't stop laughing at the new No Doubt album. I feel like this is some kind of joke”). The best person I knew to discuss this with was Mike and as to not be a total rant of a message, I also included my praise for the new Green Day songs. The following conversation took place and I present it to you, unedited, as our blog piece on “Uno.”
(We jump into the conversation after I had just finished pronouncing my dissatisfaction with “Push and Shove” from No Doubt)
Matt: But Green Day on the other hand... I am really liking it. I won't say love yet, but I am more than satisfied. After hearing it a couple times I feel two things. 1) It's kind of weird to not be a concept album and have it be just straight rock songs. But at the same time it's kind of refreshing. Like, we know they can take it there but it's nice to have them excel at being simple. 2) I feel like the songs they officially released were a perfect indicator for the rest of the record.
The really cool thing though - we still have two more of these.
Mike: Uno is really wonderful. I'm on the fence as to whether it's a 4 or a 4.5 for me, but it was definitely worth the wait. The thing that surprised me was how consistently energetic it is. I love the nods to Nimrod and Cheap Trick, and it sounds irreverent after AI and 21CB's seriousness. If I had a complaint it's that I could have used more beef on the guitars, and some of the choruses are a bit repetitive. Still, I think ditching the concept and getting back to pop-punk and old school rock & roll revitalized them. There are some deep cuts on this, especially Sweet 16 and Rusty James. And I REALLY like Oh Love as a closer. What are your favorites? And I think your excitement for Dos and Tre definitely matches my own.
Matt: Uno is on the opposite end of the spectrum from No Doubt. The more I listen, the more I like it. I agree about everything you stated - from the nods to the consistency to the lack of beef. Like I said above, I think there's something to be said for how simple it is. This is a band that two records ago was running down the leader of the free world and now are saying "I had a dream that I kissed your lips and it felt so true / Then I woke up as a nervous wreck and I fell for you." That song and Carpe Diem are a couple of my favorites, but for some reason the oddness of Troublemaker has me pulling toward it. Take away the fact that it's a single, but Let Yourself Go is my absolute favorite. And I remember you saying Oh Love sounds like a closer so good call on that one.
Mike: I was so worried when I heard the YouTube version of Carpe Diem because it's similar to Before The Lobotomy. The studio version is sooooo good though. I love how punchy it is, and how much Cheap Trick sneaks into the second chorus. The big stand out for me was Rusty James. I love that Green Day are fucking calling out the Gillman St. gestapo and all the people that say they aren't "punk enough." Where AI and 21CB sounded world-weary, I love that Uno sounds YOUTHFUL, echoing your sentiment about Fell For You. Let Yourself Go is a song I feel like they wanted Christian's Inferno to be, and I love that they finally figured out how to write it without all the studio effects. That's the thing I think I appreciate most: Uno feels like 4 guys just JAMMING, where their past 2 records felt like carefully sculpted monuments. That's definitely something to appreciate, but there's something to be said for simplicity and energy. Also, that countdown on Nuclear Family.
Matt: That simplicity and energy that you mentioned is what’s drawing me back to this album. Not to overstate it, but what they did with the last two albums was brilliant. But going to just straight punk rock and roll (that’s the genre name I’m going to go with) was just as bold as a move. I think people are going to write off this album before even listening, but I think repeated listens will showcase each of the band member’s talent. The drumming is insane and understated at the same time. And we previously discussed the guitar work, but its simplicity is also a selling point here. Also, I have to admit – if used correctly “explicit” songs can be effective. And I think these songs are the perfect time to showcase F bombs. Angel Blue’s content is subtle, but it’s center stage in Let Yourself Go and honestly takes the song up a notch. And while at one point you have to discuss the adult lyrical content, you also have to address how sweet this album is, as in it could be something ripped out of the 60s. From songs about staying the night to someone always being a Sweet 16 – there’s a nostalgic “love in the air” feel to some of the tracks. Of course, that sound is accompanied by three mega rock stars.
I think in the end I would have to go with a solid four stars, but to keep in mind that that could change by February, a month after the third album in this trilogy is released. If this is the first chapter, then this is going to be a hell of a read.
Mike: You're absolutely correct about people writing this album off before they really hear it. 8 years later, people are still angry about the eyeliner and the clothes, rather than focusing the chords that support them. The tragedy is that they're missing out one some of the most invigorating music of this band's career. I think you're right to point out the amount of restraint that Uno has--the higher energy tracks like Let Yourself Go propel this album forward while still allowing for experimentation on other tracks. Kill The DJ hasn't gotten the love it deserves I think, it's probably the darkest cut here, providing an interesting juxtaposition to the Beatles-shine of Sweet 16. Again, I'm harping on Rusty James, but it may be the record's most concise snapshot of the group's trajectory since 1988. Yet, I think the thing that really endears Uno is the same thing that keeps it from perfection--Its sweetness, be it in its sometimes glam-candy production and in its lyrics. Though the group is able to channel that same kind of irreverent riffing that made Nimrod so great, I think the puppy-dog love theme does make long time fans wonder why the group can't balance that with some black sarcasm like on Dookie--Especially with 5 albums worth of songwriting experience since then. I thought about giving it an extra half star, but I think I agree with you, this album feels like it's a 4/5*. What's most exciting is that this IS part 1 of 3, and this was a very strong statement to start with. I feel like a comparison to The Clash's Sandinista! is unavoidable because with 3 albums of material, no one will like everything, but like the Clash, I think Green Day have always been good at twisting traditional pop-hooks and genre mainstays in the name of earnest songwriting. That's what's really going to stick with me on Uno--Green Day's tireless dedication to turn something on its head and stay true to themselves. I think with Dos and Tre, we're going to see our generation's version of the Clash finally break free from the shadow of their Gilman St. beginnings.
(*editor's note: Mike's 4/5 rating was later changed to 4.5; hearing the music in your car can change one's appreciation)