As many suspected, “Oh Love” was something of a red herring. Something had to give, after all; pages of print have been spent talking about how ¡Uno! is supposed to be where the men of Green Day give up on all their grand rock-opera aspirations and just rock out for a little while. As if to contradict all of that, the first single they released from the album was “Oh Love”, which is about as far from rocking out as Mitt fucking Romney.
See what I did there? I threw the word “fucking” in for effect. Did you find it funny? Did it enhance your enjoyment of my writing? Probably “no” on both counts, but for whatever it’s worth, Billy Joe seems to be hoping we’ll enjoy hearing it as much as he enjoys singing it. Listen to the way hey says “Shut your mouth ’cause you’re talkin’ too much / And I don’t give a fuck anyway”. He gives that “fuck” some juice, some relish, as if that’s the word he’s been leading up to for the entire song. Of course, that song’s followed by “Kill the DJ”, a song that repeats “Someone kill the DJ / Shoot the fuckin’ DJ” over and over in the chorus over a backdrop that might as well be Franz Ferdinand. Again, there’s a little more oomph to the “fuckin'” in that couplet than there is in any of the other words, suggesting that Billie Joe is really fuckin’ enjoying himself. Which, you know, good for him I guess.
Of course, all the naughty talk is supposed to be emblematic of an attitude.
To give Green Day credit, they do manage to uphold that attitude throughout the majority of ¡Uno!. For the most part, this is a loud and fast album, with only the occasional quiet intro or instrumental break to calm things down a bit. There was obviously a goal here, that being to rock like they haven’t rocked in forever, and “Oh Love” aside, they accomplished that.
Still, what happens is something like St. Anger Syndrome. That is, a band goes into a studio session with the intent of capturing the raucous magic of the olden days, and it feels so purposeful as to be rote. These songs are not fast and loud because that’s what anyone was feeling when they were written, they are fast and loud because that’s what they were programmed to be. They are fast and loud because Green Day wanted to write a fast and loud album, and you know, I can’t remember when that has ever worked. It’s the midlife crisis approach. You feel boxed into a corner by the decisions of your recent past, and you abandon your goals and intentions of the last ten or fifteen years for the sake of forced youth. Granted, Rob Cavallo would never let a snare drum sound like a garbage can lid, but the point stands.
On the bright side, Billie Joe’s rediscovered a serious propensity for guitar solos. If there are thrilling moments to be found on ¡Uno!, they are to be found in Billie Joe’s guitars. The 16 bars of guitar solo that serve as the bridge for “Loss of Control” are perhaps the high point of the entire album, and the quick and simple guitar solo that shows up a minute and a half into “Angel Blue” ensures that the song isn’t a complete waste of time.
Guitar solos aside, ¡Uno! may well be Green Day’s weakest album to date. It’s not so much that they should be making a rock opera with every album — 21st Century Breakdown pushed that idea to its breaking point — but they’re above these ridiculous and immature instasongs. I’ll admit, I was actually hoping for an album like this, thanks to brilliant, vintage Green Day tunes on more recent albums like American Idiot‘s “Letterbomb”, Warning‘s “Minority”, and the second half of the similarly-punctuated “¡Viva La Gloria!” from 21st Century Breakdown. Unfortunately, all of those songs stand head and shoulders above any one of the tracks on ¡Uno!. The volume is here, but the hooks aren’t. This is empty rage not worthy of a band that’s done so much better.