Review Summary: "Baby, baby, it's suck time".
When Green Day announced that they were getting ready to release a trilogy, the portion of the music world that still cares about them collectively braced itself for a disaster. The group's previous two albums had been characterized by over-ambitious and often over-bloated songwriting, and the prospect of three 21st Century Breakdown
s in quick succession was not far from everybody's mind. The first chapter of the project, !Uno!
, did away with such notions, but could not escape some controversy; naysayers of the group saw it as an easy target for ridicule, and the fanbase was divided, with some applauding its Nimrod
-lite, return-to-roots sound, whilst others decried it as generic, uninspired and insincere. Now, after a short break for frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to serve his time in the naughty corner (read: rehab), follow up !DOS!
looks set to once again mend the rift dividing the fanbase; unfortunately, all it succeeds in doing is unite them in agreement of how abysmally awful it is.
If anything, !Dos!
's dismal overall level proves that the fanbase's fears about the trilogy were not unfundamented, and that !Uno!
did not so much dispel them as postpone them. The middle album of the Spanish triplet is exactly what most people expected from this project to begin with: an over-reaching, pompous, self-important mess which questions the validity of Green Day as a creatively active band, much the same way St. Anger
did for Metallica nearly a decade ago. Yes, folks, this is Green Day's St. Anger
; and much like with that other epic mess of an album, the fans know exactly who to blame. The fault for this abomination of a record lies squarely on the shoulders of a tantrum-throwing, eyeliner-wearing, permanent teenager known as Billie Joe Armstrong.
In fact, despite the presence of bassist Mike Dirnt on the cover, Green Day's new effort has the diminutive singer and guitarist's pawprints all over it, making it evident that Armstrong must have some sort of master plan to destroy the band he once created one ridiculous decision at a time. It is not even just the horrendous lyrics (less juvenile this time around, but no less cringeworthy) or temper tantrums anymore. It is the realisation that the frontman is honestly, unironically trying to pass himself off as some sort of Cobainesque prophet of a generation, blissfully unaware (or perhaps deliberately so) that he has not been their age for twenty-five years. It is the subsequent - and disturbing - perception that this 40-year-old man is writing sappy love songs with the intention of creaming the pants of what will by now be the daughters of the women he was targetting in the same way 15 years ago. It is the entire, creepy undercurrent running through the lyrics of songs such as Make Out Party, Lady Cobra
or the vaguely stalkerish *** Time
. It is, in the end, the spine-curdling conclusion that Billie Joe Armstrong is slowly, inexorably turning into Gene Simmons. For a longtime Green Day fan, it may be too much to take.
Not that the lyrics on this album are not bad. They are. In fact, they are atrocious. Green Day's lyrics were never known for their subtlety or depth, but, coming from the mouth of a 20-year-old, Billie Joe's awkward analogies and dorky turns of phrase managed to be charming in their youthful self-awareness. When spouted by a 40-year-old, however, they lose all their gawky appeal, instead coming across as the cringe-worthy clunkers that they are. Written by a post-teenager, a line like "wow that dirty dress is so loud"
might have been chuckled off as an attempt to be silly; delivered in dead-serious fashion here, however, it becomes ridiculous. Similarly, the cautionary lecture about drugs directed at a former friend (on Ashley
) might have seemed quaint before that iHeart Radio meltdown, but comes across as nothing more than hypocritical in light of it. And what can be said about a line such as "do you want to play a game of Twister/like a dirty old man with the babysitter"
, except that it will leave a squeamish feeling in the belly of even the most depraved Green Day fan? Now and again, Armstrong does manage to whip out a relatable lyric, such as on Lazy Bones
, where he voices a state of mind everyone has been in at least once; mostly, however, !Dos
is a mess of trite platitudes, teenage cliches and clunky, pseudo-clever zingers about 15 years out of date.
Poor lyrics and inflated egos may still have been excusable, however, if the musical side had delivered. Unfortunately, once again, it is a swing and a miss. Opener See You Tonight
does manage to raise an eyebrow, with its sweet, minimalistic Beatles/Simon & Garfunkel pastiche. The surprise, however, stems more from the unexpected stylistic turn than from any perceived quality the song may have; when its sentiment is negated by the very next
track, *** Time
, the listener has realised that this will not, in fact, be a successful maturation experiment so much as a collection of uninspired filler songs which would not even have made B-side status during the group's second wind, eight years ago.
Stylistically, there initially seems to be nothing wrong with !Dos!
. The album's sound continues the logical progression along the encapsulation of the band's career that the trilogy seems to represent: while !Uno!
revisited the punkier side of the Nimrod
era, this one plants itself firmly in the post-Warning
, pre-American Idiot
era. However, where the former had effort and the latter had genius, !Dos!
has only rote, by-the-books recycling and a generally disinterested attitude, which inevitably affects its songs. The first half of this album whizzes by barely registering, and even when Armstrong decides to wake the *** up and inject some excitement into the proceedings halfway through the album (on Ashley
and Baby Eyes
, incidentally the two best cuts on here) the results sound as forced, tired and insincere as everything else around it. Green Day just do not seem up for it this time, and one cannot shake the feeling that maybe the time has come for them to retire. The old Green Day would have known to make *** Time
a 01:50 slab of juvenile fun-punk, for instance, rather than a boring mid-tempo. Similarly, the 1997 incarnation of the band would have shot the somewhat sweet and sentimental Amy
to the top of the charts, alongside their own Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)
; in 2012, however, the song just sounds like another tiresome exercise that a semi-motivated band might have made something out of.
As drab as the early goings are, however, nothing can prepare the listener for what comes after the two stand-out tracks: perhaps the low point of Green Day's career so far, and that is counting half of Nimrod
and most of 21st Century Breakdown
. Nowhere is the debacle that is the band's modern-day career better encapsulated than on the abominable Nightlife
, a song best described as "Kill The DJ
with added rapping", and which strips that song of its former standing as "worst Green Day song ever" to make it firmly its own. Who the target demographic this travesty aims for is, one is at a loss to determine - although the current crowd who idolises Florence & The Machine could be a good bet - but it most certainly is not old-school fans. This song has to be heard to be believed, but listener beware - certain things cannot be unheard...
All in all, then, !Dos!
does little more than prove the millions of Green Day 'haters' right. It is an easy fit for worst album in the band's career, a glowing testament to clean and drug-free living, and proof positive that, in certain cases, it really is
best to quit while ahead. Because when KISS, of all bands, manages to put out a better album than you, it really is time to rethink your priorities...