Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Review: Green Day - ¡Dos!

Reviewed by Tim Bustin

(source: cultture.com)
 “¡Dos!” is Green Day’s second album in their triptych of releases (“¡Uno!”, “¡Dos!” and “¡Tre!”). If you haven’t read my “¡Uno!” review, I summarised that it was a great album which was Green Day’s way of proving that even after their dedication to semi-punk sounding rock operas (“American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown”), they could still produce proper punk. The album was a fantastic blend of the band’s early punk sound and the best parts of their rock operas. The album was slightly tarred by high-pitched backing vocals and wailing, along with experimentation into dance music and so on. The songs for all three of the albums were written at the same time, so have a similar but evidently different overall sound – all of the above mentioned features of “¡Uno!” appear on “¡Dos!”, but Green Day still manage to produce      individual-sounding songs and of an amazing quality.

Perhaps the best way the band could possibly have shown to their audience that they haven’t dropped their most recent work is by having a one-minute introduction song – “See You Tonight” is gentle, with solely acoustic guitar and soft vocals – like “Song of the Century” on “21st Century Breakdown”. At the end of tune the album immediately picks up momentum with “F**K Time”: a proper punk song, with a subtly fast tempo, semi-open high-hats on the drums and Bille Joe’s sneer – not for one moment does the song sound weak; one could argue that the swearing is simply placed in the song’s title simply for the band to try to prove that they truly can still make proper punk, rather than the slow and simplistic songs of “21st Century Breakdown”, but this is easily deniable. The guitar at the beginning of the chorus sounds has a similar sound to the opening of “Warning” – a single from an album (of the same name), which coincidently was the last album released before “American Idiot”.

(source: greendaytickets2010.blogspot.com)
The referencing of old work, throughout the band's entire 20+ year long career, is played out on many of the other songs on the album: “Lazy Bones” starts reminiscently of “Give Me Novacaine” from “American Idiot”; “Wild One”, with its slowed down tempo, drawn out sound and high-pitched backing vocals, can be described as “Last Night On Earth” ’s (from “21st…”) very basic foundations with a whole punk song built on top – the fact that this song has a notably slow speed shows that it is quite different from early Green Day and basic punk, simply because the majority of punk songs have a fast tempo. If you were to compare the song to any song from “Dookie” (Green Day’s breakthrough album and a major player in the nineties punk-pop revival) you would be able to clearly show how Green Day have changed (or evolved?) over the years.
Rock operas: American Idiot and
21st Century Breakdown were Green
Day's only new work in the last 8 years

Another way that Green Day has tried to reconnect with old fans is through Bille Joe Armstrong’s lyrics. As opposed to the rock operas, with their complex storylines, political edge, hordes of characters and lack of basic punk ideals, here Bille Joe sticks mainly to singing about love and hormonal problems – mainly involving songs about young women and an arrogant or shy narrator – maybe odd coming from a 40-year old frontman but Bille Joe sings brilliantly throughout. He is isn’t afraid of innuendo or just being blunt about what he sings; “I’m too tired to be bored/ too bored to be tired” – here he sings of how many teenagers (like the one he is imitating to be) are confused or just seem to be stuck.

He even manages to reference The Who here (from their song “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” – Green Day have often referred to The Who as one of their key influences; after all, they can be credited as releasing one of the earliest punk songs, “My Generation”, and of course The Who invented the rock opera with “Tommy” – Green Day have covered Who songs and drummer Tre Cool style’s has once been referred to as a mix of Keith Moon (The Who’s drummer) and John Bonham – this heavy referencing can be showed as Green Day trying to return their own sound by exploring their influences; here, Cool’s drumming is heavy with many rapid drum rolls, just like Moon). The lyrics are just as important as the music as a way to win back old fans but also to gain new, younger ones too.

There is plenty of premier punk on “¡Dos!” but Green Day can’t help but be different, individual and experimental. “Nightlife” is anything but punk – it is beautiful in its darkness. It’s the first song in Green Day’s entire catalogue to feature a female singer but the cool sound generated by the bass taking the position of lead instrument makes the song another work of genius by the band; “Gonna make a move, before I got bored/If you wanna explore my vocal chord” – the lyrics certainly follow the same trend as the rest of the album. Releasing a song like “Amy” is a brave move, featuring just Billie Joe being sentimental on vocals and gentle but with a great presence on electric guitar. It is a great song, just like the rest of album.

It’s important to note first that the singles or “main songs” (as advertised on the cover of the album) are not anything spectacular. “Stray Heart” features Mike Dirnt taking his bass to lead position (seen on many of Green Day’s songs) and although there is an overall punk sound it doesn’t make it a great song. “Amy”, as already mentioned, is a great song but it is still not going to necessarily last throughout the ages. “Stop When The Red Lights Flash” is another punk song but still isn’t anything to get too excited over – the solo helps show off Bille Joe’s talent (just as the instrumental section of “Makeout Party” is epic in its way of showing off the whole band’s talent) but songs rarely rely on solos to make them into classics.

It is entirely fair to say that, like “¡Uno!” before it, “¡Dos!” is a good album, with the difference of “¡Dos!” being less ruined by the subtle techniques (e.g. high pitched wailing) from their rock operas. There is however too much filler in the songs, with less of the songs standing out as truly great. The album has yet to chart but reviews vary from 6-8/10. Now we’ll just have to wait for “¡Tre!”.

Read Tim Bustin's review of Green Day's !Uno!

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