Green Day challenged and eventually changed public perception of the modern punk band. They didn’t offer the radical ideas of the late 70s and early 80s; instead they reinstated a sense of scope and ambition that had been sorely lacking. With a multi-part concept album that would become a punk rock musical (American Idiot), a smart depressive comeback (Warning), and stadium size pop blockbuster (21st Century Breakdown), Green Day shatter the shackles of the So Cal sound. Swapping dick jokes and ironic dispassion for weighty themes and righteous outrage their message was simple: expect more.
When Billie Joe Armstrong announced the release of a three album series fans began to think big: a multi-part concept album? A career-defining triptych? A chance to experiment? They should have expected less. ¡Uno!, the first instalment released in September, deflated expectation but delivered enough coy pop kicks to null any potential disappointment. Instead of opening up a world of new possibilities ¡Uno! was escapist fun, a chance for a troupe of 40-year-old punks to reconnect with their inner teen.
¡Dos! attempts to follow suit. Unfortunately, the deft touch that allowed Green Day to re-inhabit their 15-year-old minds without embarrassment has deserted them. “Fuck Time” is as crass as its title would suggest, but it’s not the worst offender, “Makeout Party” takes that dubious honour, as Billie Joe screams “Do you want to spin the bottle, play a game of chicken” atop a tired and predictably buoyant arrangement. ¡Uno! could have passed for the work of conflicted, frustrated teens: ¡Dos! feels out of touch and patronising, employing the same cringe inducing clichés trotted out by 70-year-old Hollywood producers. Even when the band act their age they struggle to inspire. “Lady Cobra” is a pale White Stripes imitation, and while “Wow! That’s Loud” valiantly attempts to blend 60s Anglophile influences with American stadium tricks, the whole affair feels limp and half hearted.
At this stage of their careers Green Day are simply too shrewd to lay an egg. ¡Dos! might be inane, but it’s punctuated by genuinely brilliant moments. Album closer “Amy” is a wonderfully affecting tribute to Amy Winehouse. With the despairing sway of the best early-Beatles work, Billie Joe conveys the paradoxical ache inflicted by the distant death of someone who is known, yet completely unknowable (“No one really knows about your soul, and I barely really know your name”).
Elsewhere, bristling rocker “Ashley” hints at what ¡Dos! could have been. Blending youth and experience Billie tackles the essential teenage pursuit of chasing a girl wherever she may lead, down the rabbit hole and beyond. Offering the insight of age, he suggests there’s more to life than the thrill of danger and the shock of the new (“We used to call it speed but now its crystal meth, back when I loved you but you’re scaring me to death, this careless memory, and now I could care less”). “Lazy Bones” melds the inflections of early-2000s indie with 60s pop. It might be light on new ideas, but it’s masterfully constructed. A stark reminder of how brilliant Green Day can be when they’re not embarrassing themselves.
Despite some spritely highlights, ¡Dos! proves irredeemable. Lightweight, out of touch, and utterly underwhelming, Green Day’s latest offering is swift and well constructed, but that’s about it. Further evidence that, try as they might, a band in their 40s will inevitably fail to recapture the awkward energy of their 14-year-old inner child as they descend into pastiche. Sadly, the stadium sized rockers feel weary even when they abandon the follies of youth, and their best-executed new ideas (“Nightlife”) were dated in 1997. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had listening to ¡Dos!, but its marred by the lingering stench of disappointment.
Buy If:some brainless teenage kicks sound like fun.
Skip If:you grew out of spin the bottle and makeout parties a long time ago.
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