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Album Review | ‘¡Dos!’ delivers upbeat songs, lacks substance

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 07:11

 

While it’s no small feat in the rock ‘n’ roll world for a group to stay together for the better part of a quarter-century, Green Day is not exactly the band it used to be. The group’s problems began approximately two months ago when lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong entered rehab following bouts of heavy drinking and substance abuse, and grew even worse when the band canceled every scheduled tour date through early 2013.

Inside the studio, however, the show goes on: Green Day released “¡Uno!,” the first part of its promised album trilogy, this past September. While it is definitely not the group’s most thought-provoking record, “¡Uno!” is a fun-filled, one-sitting listen that invokes a raging rock concert atmosphere. “¡Dos!,” the follow-up to “¡Uno!,” barely strays from this formula. The result is another record that offers enjoyable, ear-pleasing music, but is missing the thematic richness that made previous Green Day albums like “American Idiot” (2004) and “21st Century Breakdown” (2009) such fan favorites.

Listening to this record, you’d never know that times were now so bleak for Mr. Billie Joe. Green Day relentlessly celebrates the wild side of rock-star life throughout the nearly 40 minutes of “¡Dos!,” yelling raucous lyrics like “I will manhandle your holy grace/ I want to choke you ’til you’re blue in the face,” and “I’m out of control/ Oh baby when I see your pretty face/ I say whoa,” without pause. It’s the same sort of life-is-a-party mentality that has characterized some of the band’s most popular work. It is a relief to see that, despite the turmoil that may be plaguing members’ personal lives, Green Day can still deliver 13 tracks of solid fun.

“Nightlife,” the most ominous track on the record, provides a female perspective on this rowdy lifestyle, with guest vocalist Lady Cobra whisper-rapping, “I’ll be the devil on your shoulder saying ‘Hey boy, come over’/ My black heart beats crimson and clovers.” Alongside Armstrong’s confessions about how this woman is “in my blood
 and resides in my mind and in my nightlife,” these lyrics make “Nightlife” a creepy but infectious album highlight.

Green Day shows its more sensitive side on the closing track “Amy,” a tribute to the late singer Amy Winehouse. “May I have this last dance, by chance if we should meet?/ Can you write me a lullaby/ So we can sing you to sleep?” Armstrong asks his fellow performer. It’s easily the most emotionally stirring song on the album, and one can only imagine how memorable an onstage collaboration between Armstrong and Winehouse would have been.

The album’s main themes of drugs, girls and partying may feel somewhat stale to rock fans, especially since Green Day has often explored these same subjects throughout much of its lengthy career. Songs like “Lazy Bones” come across as latter-day versions of their earlier odes to pot and laziness. The song’s opening lyrics, “I’m too tired to be bored, I’m too bored to be tired,” are all too reminiscent of the famous “I’m so damn bored I’m going blind,” chorus line from the group’s 1994 hit, “Longview.”

Once listeners realize that “¡Dos!” isn’t meant to be very serious — or maybe even original — they’ll be able to appreciate it more. While “¡Dos!” may be thematically identical to “¡Uno!,” it is refreshing to hear Green Day generating a more garage rock sound on its new record, instead of the “power pop” style of “¡Uno!.” The guitar work and instrumentals on the album are impressive throughout, particularly on tracks like “Wild One” and “Wow! That’s Loud.”

Overall, it is surely a positive sign to see that Armstrong and his crew can continue to make fun, uplifting music in the midst of their serious personal struggles. It would be even more encouraging, however, to see them translate these ongoing troubles into stirring lyrical content. Will Armstrong be able to spin his battles with drug addiction into a compelling, introspective narrative in his future musical efforts? By the time this album trilogy comes full circle with next month’s “¡Tre!,” we may finally get our answer.

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