Review Summary: Uno!/5
Say what you will about 21st Century Breakdown
. It may be pretty terrible, but at least it’s terrible in a colossal, massively ambitious way that’s kind of admirable. It has the pretense of being a grand statement from a band that doesn’t have the language to communicate what it means, but God bless them for trying, right? Then again, maybe I’m just giving it a charitable read out of some obligatory sense of nostalgia, because here I am, listening to Uno!
, a record that duds like a crumpled up piece of paper hitting the rim a of a trash can, longing for the days when Green Day imploded like a neutron star, capable of inspiring something other than a nagging sense of disappointment. What’s worse: a band that doesn’t have a thing to say but desperately wants to say something? Or a band that writes nothing about nothing then literally puts a smug little smile on the whole thing as if to say “fuck
is the first of three albums by Green Day in a post-Green Day world where you don’t have to give a shit
because neither do they. Like, actually
; the band has come to inhabit a cultural space closer to Justin Fuckin
’ Bieber than Billie Joe might like to admit and when this whole douchily titled trio-album project was announced, literally the only thing it had going for it was that Green Day had dropped the political posturing, embraced “their roots,” and were back to writing simple, straightforward pop songs. And that’s what Uno!
is: simple to the point of weightless, straightforward to the point of predictable, and so laden with nuggets from Billie Joe’s cliché collection that I don’t think any of the songs are actually about anything. Whereas on older albums, it’s possible to hear objectively ridiculous lyrics and offer a forgiving smirk for the spirit, Uno!
is almost exclusively objectively ridiculous lyrics, some of which include:
“I’m wearin’ my heart on a noose.”
- “Oh, Love”
”Someone kill the DJ/ Hold him underwater till that motherfucker drowns.”
- “Kill the DJ”
”I woke up in a pool of sweat/ my first thought was that I pissed the bed/ Heart of stars in the midnight hour/ A kiss of death from the Eiffel Tower.”
- “Fell For You”
”All this fuck fuckin’ with my head now”
- “Let Yourself Go”
This is not nonchalance with sneering charm as found on Dookie
. This is word vomit without a hint of substance, nothing to be thought about for longer than 3-4 minutes lest you realize that there is actually nothing going on beyond the regurgitation of commercial rock and roll without the slightest pretense of heart.
Dem’s some strong fightin’ words, granted, but they’re not unfounded. The album’s made up of sugary, megaproduced anthems so wedded to basic rock and roll tropes that they go by quickly without making the slightest imprint, without once announcing themselves as something worth paying attention to. This isn’t to say Uno!
can’t be catchy, at times--Green Day don’t have it in them to do anything remotely dissonant--but it’s catchy in a way that’s competent at best, completely devoid of originality and strikingly dull at worst. Every chorus, drum break, and guitar solo is calculated for utmost efficiency in making Uno!
inoffensive and vaguely fun, and all this math sucks it of any spirit. This is lazy, 70s rock-by-numbers with no goal other than to be lazy, 70s rock-by-numbers, perfectly functional with no edge, message, or raison d’etre to speak of.
You could counter this by arguing that Uno!
doesn’t need a supposed purpose to be good, that these songs are successful just by being decent facsimiles of pop rock from days gone by, but for one, such a move is critically problematic because it fallaciously assumes that art can elect to not do any cultural work, and for two, it simply isn't true. Uno!
has some genuinely nauseating moments, the most obvious of which are singles “Kill The DJ,” a song that aches for the hook from Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” but settles on a trite, edgeless faux-strut, and “Oh, Love,” a power ballad that actually manages to have more base platitudes and be less inspiring than “21 Guns.” “Carpe Diem” holds about as much meaning as its title suggests; in a bitterly meta moment, Billie Joe sings “Livin’ a cliché” before soaring into “Carpe Diem! A Battle Cry! Are we all too young to die?”
Clearly not. That much is clear from the immortal iHeartRadio meltdown. There’s a perverse irony in watching Billie Joe announce “I’m gonna play a new song” then whine about the disrespect to his legacy for two minutes. But to be fair, 19-fuckin
’-88 is a long time to be doing what Green Day does, and to BJ’s credit, they have nothing to prove. The first of the Spanish albums didn’t have to revitalize Green Day’s career and indeed it comes nowhere close. But that does not excuse it from being a remarkably dull, pedestrian affair from one of the last big rock bands. The defense that it isn’t trying, that it’s just for kicks, would I guess be admissible if the songs weren’t so entirely devoid of substance. Instead, Uno!
is pretty much like watching two drunk forty year old men smash their guitars when their television set is cut short: sad, a hurtful reminder that three guys who once inspired a generation of teenagers who fancied themselves disenfranchised, who, even when they sucked, seemed to have aspirations worth believing in, have stopped being relevant. And they can’t be fuck
ed to try.