Of the things I never thought I’d write, “Green Day has been one of the most consistently thrilling bands of the last 20 years” is pretty high on the list, but here we are. From that beautifully simple little transitional guitar line that moves “2000 Light Years Away” out of its chorus straight through to the way “¡Viva La Gloria!” explodes from a lovely piano ballad into a classic breakneck Green Day song, this is a band that always manages to surprise its listeners despite never sounding like anyone other than Green Day.
So what the hell is this?
You know what was great about “21 Guns”? Gravity. You know what was great about “Brain Stew”? Nihilism. Despite living at a tempo similar to those Green Day classics, “Oh Love” shares nothing in common with them. This is Green Day at its most pandering, an anthem for someone who needs an anthem, a meaningless string of words under a I-IV-I-V-I chord progression designed to be forgotten immediately. It is cliché after cliché, punctuated by the occasional oh-so-clever turn of phrase that’s actually just another cliché disguised as wordplay. “I’m wearing my heart on a noose”? What does that even mean?
Green Day going back to basics should be urgent, it should be energetic, it should make us say things like “I didn’t think they had it in ’em!” Maybe the rest of ¡Uno!, the first of a three-album set that will be released in September, November, and January, will do just that. That the first thing we’re hearing of it sounds like cynical single-fodder, however, doesn’t offer much hope.