Review Summary: A partially forgettable return to form, but one that shows Green Day are undeniable masters of their signature sound, and are still able to play it better than the bands that take after them.
Whether you loved it or hated it, there’s no denying that Green Day’s previous two “rock opera” themed albums saved the trio’s career. The concept focused efforts of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown showcased ambition on a grander scale, as opposed to releasing just another collection of songs using the tired punk formula. The infusion of accessible alternative rock into their neo-punk attitude re-ignited mainstream appeal in the band, and made them relevant once more in the rapid increase in popularity of post-hardcore/emo bands with polish-heavy production and emphasis on poppy melodies, that the early years of the new millennium saw.
Not to mention, the members of Green Day had aged into their 30‘s throughout the 2000‘s, and with their Dookie-era punk being a sound based on somewhat of a youthful energy, some more ambition incorporated into their approach did well to conceal their age and prevent it from effecting their music.
There really aren’t any big ideas behind Green Day’s latest effort ¡Uno! though, it being the first in a trilogy of albums aptly titled ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! is about as close to ambitious as the album gets. However, this is fitting, as this is a simple approach for very simplistic music. The music on ¡Uno!, and the music promised to be on the following two albums of the trilogy is Green Day’s return to punk rock being a dominating factor in both their sound and style.
The punk rock on ¡Uno! definitely isn’t anything remarkable. It’s a 42 minute non-stop barrage of basic and conventional punk rock that doesn’t put on the brakes until the arena-fitted album closing anthem “Oh Love”. There isn’t much variation and differentiation in song structure, which comes at the cost of stand-out, memorable tunes, and the riffs can start to blur together on a straight-listen though. On the other hand however, this frenetic pacing does result in the most relentless ride Green Day has offered in a while. One where the songs work better in the context of the album while caught up in its energy, rather than as stand alone tracks were they are more noticeably passive.
On past albums, namely Dookie, it has always been debated whether or not Green Day can properly be classified as pop punk, but up until ¡Uno!, the band has never fit the name more appropriately. ¡Uno!’s material is Green Day’s most polished and spry take on punk to date, so much so that “Oh Love”’s clap-steady beat can become reminiscent of a Weezer song. This may be slick, but because of it, Green Day fails to attain the franticness and recklessness that makes simplistic and straight-forward punk with a raw edge so great, and what in turn made the older material they’re returning to here work the best, though it can be debated how “raw” Green Day even were to begin with.
A return to this form doesn’t push Green Day’s sound forward into any new or exciting direction, but it does provide the band with an opportunity to show that they can still do what they became known for the best. Green Day proves with this album that age has not affected their craft in any way, and its impressive just how young and wildly Green Day performs on ¡Uno!. The band plays like they haven't aged a bit since their heyday in the early to late 90's. This is their most skilled and masterful rendition of the music basics that they know by heart, and shows that after all this time they still sound just as refined at their influential brand of punk as any of their modern contemporaries that were influenced by them.
¡Uno! doesn’t progress Green Day or pop punk in any direction at all, but it's an album that shows that Green Day still got it, that the burning fire of their passion and love for more frenzied hardcore punk hasn’t gone out due to age. While it has its obvious and expected flaws, it solidifies that they are still capable of performing familiar styles with as much finesse as before, and they still sound like they're having a hell of a lot of fun playing their music.