Thank god it's not another concept album.
That's perhaps untrue, though: maybe this is just a concept album broken over three separate records: ¡Uno! is the first in a trilogy (wittily to be followed by ¡Dos! and, of course, ¡Tre!). That said, the forty one minutes of this, Green Day's ninth record, don't seem to contain the same kind of forced linking between songs that predecessors 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot laboured with,
Opener "Nuclear Family" is Green Day by numbers, meant in the kindest sense. Guitar tone is that instant Billie Joe sound and for a moment it's as though you're listening to Nimrod. There's a hint of the megaphone/reverb-laden vocal effects that were a little too present in the aforementioned predecessors, but luckily the entire album isn't delivered this way. It's followed up by "Stay The Night", a heartfelt ballad which could've been on Warning and feels refreshingly "classic" in Green Day terms: it's not brash and grandiose like some of Billie Joe's more pomp-laden deliveries, and it offers that perfect pop-punk mixture of yearning and bounce. "Rusty James", the penultimate track, is more of the same.
"Carpe Diem" shows off Armstrong's knack for a hook with vocal harmonies dominating every other line. Unfortunately it's followed up by possibly the weakest track on the record, "Let Yourself Go". While it's undeniably catchy and will embed itself in your head for hours after listening (like "American Idiot" did years ago), it feels a bit embarassing when viewed in the context of the band's lengthy career: the repeated "I don't give a fuck anyway" lines feel like the kind of snotty, dropout punk rock the band specialised in almost two decades ago.
We're treated next to some hipster-aping indie rock ("Kill The DJ", which also suffers from some mildly controversial profanity, and "Troublemaker", a sassy Hives-esque romp with some nice use of feedback in the chorus) and then some generic Green Day ("Fell For You", and "Loss of Control", which most bands would kill to add to their catalogue, but for the pop-punk titans feels a bit like filler).
Some parts of this sound like the band's Foxboro Hot Tubs alter-egos, with a garage rock twist on at least half of the tracks present. "Sweet 16" is perhaps the highlight of the album, a cousin to fan favourite "Scattered" from 1997's Nimrod with some personal, less grandstanding lyrics from Armstrong.
Closer "Oh Love" isn't bad, a mid-tempo closer which was the first single from the album. Mostly comprising simple guitar and vocals, it's another well-produced slab of pop rock, but doesn't really set things alight. It's a little like the album itself: it has all the constituent ingredients for a great Green Day record, should by rights be an enormous hit, but doesn't quite deliver.
Perhaps it's unfair to judge an album which is only one third of a sequence, but it just feels like there's something missing here. Billie Joe's now slightly irritating bombast gets in the way of a few songs, but when he shuts up long enough to remember his songwriting credentials they pull something brilliant out of the bag. Green Day were always at their best when they could hit you with a funny, juvenile and infectious pop-punk hook, then immediately follow it up with something poignant and heartwrenching.
While we're not quite at the level of identity confusion of 21st Century Breakdown, with a band unsure of themselves, ¡Uno! still isn't quite sure what Green Day are supposed to be in 2012. Good on them for trying to find out, and let's hope they find it in time for ¡Dos!.
6.8 / 10
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