In the two months since Green Day released ¡Uno!, the first part of a trio of new albums, it’s fair to say things have changed a little. Following Billy Joe Armstrong’s spectacular fall from the wagon and subsequent treatment for 'non-specific substance addiction', it’s tempting to rewrite the narrative of the trilogy as autobiographical, with ¡Uno!’s power-pop party vibe and breathless teenage recklessness as a self-fulfilled prophecy, showcasing a man living too fast and holding on dearly to the misadventures of youth. Now we have the follow up, ¡Dos! peering into the dark side of that life, with tales of burn outs, stray hearts and, er, Amy Winehouse set to a speed-freak’s garage rock n’ roll soundtrack. It’s a tempting angle, but it’s almost certainly bollocks. There’s an arc emerging here, yes, but it feels more knockabout than that. Recent events, however, like a fat man standing by you on the beach, cast an unavoidable shadow.
Where ¡Uno! channelled the teenage Green Day, ¡Dos! makes a conscious move away from pop punk, embracing more of the garage rock n’ roll of their alter egos the Foxboro Hot Tubs, to the point second track ‘Fuck Time’, landing somewhere between Eddie Cochran and the the Hives, was a FHT cast off. It’s throwaway fun, but there’s more to ¡Dos! than rockabilly pastiche - we have ‘Stop When The Red Lights Flash’ which takes the sound of ‘classic’ Green Day and throws doo-wop “woo-oo’s!” over the chorus, or ‘Lazy Bones’ which opens sounding like a cast off from the second Strokes album. Even when the trio revert to their default pop-punk on ‘Ashley’, the song closest in spirit to ¡Uno! and by extension to Dookie they still hold back from the supercharge punk that would push the song towards the mosh pit.
The triple discs leave more room for experimentation. On Uno that led to the disappointing ‘Kill the DJ’; ¡Dos! has ‘Nightlife’, a bonkers bass-led tour of the narrator's “old haunts” that alternates an icy-cool female half-rap on the verses with Armstrong's laid back chorus and a surf rock solo. It’s going to send the more traditional Green Day fan running to the hills, but to these ears at least it has attitude and atmosphere in spades. Even better is the brilliantly titled ‘Wow! That’s Loud’ which starts with a lead riff reminiscent of cock-rock classic ‘Angel in the Centrefold’ and goes bonkers with shreddy solo and a middle section that sounds like Smashing Pumpkins playing ‘Ballroom Blitz’ before falling apart in a storm of feedback. Excellent stuff.
If the record's themes - the party starting to go sour, the seedy underbelly of teen life - weren’t evident enough, ¡Dos! closes with a strummed tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, with her ”dirty records from another time and blood stains on her shoes”. The melody is suitably Sixties and it feels like a sweet and genuine tribute, which wobbles on just the right side of trite. Again it’s tempting to draw parallels - does Armstrong see the Winehouse tale as personally cautionary? Is this a cry for help? But again, it’s a temptation that should probably be overlooked. Armstrong’s admiration seems sincere enough without second guessing his intent.
Two down and things are still looking pretty good for Green Day’s triple album experiment. Admittedly across the two existing records you could put together a superior single album, but that’s usually the way with doubles. You’d also miss some of the emerging thematic subtleties and room for experimentation thats making this project so much fun. Yes there’s a dark cloud hanging over this picnic at the moment, but picnic it is nonetheless. With the final installment, ¡Tre!, apparently a darker and more introverted take, brought forward to December this year it will be interesting to see how the whole fits together. In the meantime ¡Dos! is a reliably fun, garagey treat - and should be viewed as no more than that.
7Marc Burrows's Score