An election year would have been the perfect time to release another politically charged rock opera, but instead, Green Day is going back to its roots.
It’s safe to say the pop-punk trio of guitarist/singer Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool has matured over the years, especially for a band that’s named after marijuana. They’ve gone from singing about “burning out” to “burning down the foreman of control,” adding a nuance to their sound that detractors said they had been lacking.
Regardless of how avid fans interpreted the band’s sudden focus on anti-Bush administration sentiment, their last two albums, 2004’s “American Idiot” and 2009’s “21st Century Breakdown” earned two consecutive Best Rock Album Grammys and introduced them to a new generation of listeners. The hype among the new albums reasserted Green Day’s status as mainstays in the mainstream music world.
This isn’t to say Green Day’s next project isn’t as ambitious, because if anything, it’s the group’s gutsiest career move yet. Starting with the release of “¡Uno!” on Sept. 25, the band will release a trilogy of albums, each featuring a member’s face on its cover.
The next two installments — “¡Dos!” and “¡Tre!” — will be released in November and January, respectively.
Of course, the band is well known for its energetic live shows, so when they take the stage at the VMAs this Thursday, viewers can expect some unconventional stage antics. At Green Day’s last visit to the ceremony in 2009, Armstrong invited fans onto the stage and crowd surfed during the band’s performance of “East Jesus Nowhere.”
To generate buzz for “¡Uno!,” the band has chosen “Oh Love” as the lead single. The lyrics themselves are pretty straightforward (“oh love, won’t you rain on me tonight,”) and even the most unskilled guitarist can figure out the chord progression in a matter of minutes. But leave it to Armstrong to take a stripped-down, no-frills melody and give it an edge that turns it into a soaring, arena-worthy anthem.
All in all, it’s an earnest bit of power-pop bliss, which makes the song’s video, in which the band performs in front of a motley crew of scantily clad women who look like rejects from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” auditions, all the more bewildering.
With follow-up single “Kill the DJ,” the band jumps on the garage rock revivalist bandwagon about a decade too late with a riff akin to Franz Ferdinand or “Combat Rock”-era Clash.
The tracks have their obvious differences, but both give a taste of Armstrong’s scarcely heard falsetto, giving hope (pretty please!) that this will be featured more on the upcoming records. After all, the criminally underrated “Last Night on Earth” was one of “Breakdown’s” many high points (no pun intended).
It’s unlikely any of these albums will be adapted into the “American Idiot” musical, but the project thus far sounds like a welcomed return to old school form for the band. With another two albums of surefire hits left to go, it seems we’re about to enter another “year of Green Day.”
“Oh Love”: A-
“Kill the DJ”: B