With the release of ¡Dos!, the second album of Green Day’s three-part trilogy, there’s an inherent temptation/compulsion for writers and critics to tie it in with the band’s recent difficulties (namely, Billie Jo Armstrong’s onstage meltdown and current stint in rehab, followed up with the band postponing their tour). But now that I’ve made the obligatory mention of said difficulties, I’d like to talk about ¡Dos! apart from those issues, and just look at the record on its own merits (at least for awhile).
Looking at it in that light—I’m amazed at how much more I personally enjoyed this second installment than the first one. While ¡Uno! really took Green Day back to its simple punk roots, the band really builds on that foundation on this second album by expanding into a broader sound palate—not unlike what they did in real life over time. While the punk elements are still there, this album definitely has more of a garage-rock feel, quite like the band’s alter-ego Foxboro Hot Tubs. (In fact, the cut “F**k Time” is actually a FHT tune they’ve been playing live for awhile.) As a result, sonically speaking, if ¡Uno! was black-and-white, ¡Dos! is Technicolor. There’s much more diversity between songs, and therefore much more interest generated.
Actually, the band takes things even further than garage-rock, venturing sometimes into questionable territory. Perhaps the most vivid example of this is “Nightlife,” which ill-advisedly couples a beach-rock style with a female rapper (gasp!). Another example is “Stray Heart,” which has an early-80s dancy pop/rock vibe in which the drum/bass combo sounds like it was lifted right off of Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It.” The song itself is cool, but the nice-guy love song vibe doesn’t really fit in the context of the more sordid themes of the songs surrounding it.
Speaking of the album’s themes—let’s just say it’s a combination of raging hormones and regret. There are lots of songs about girls, written in the light of unbridled adolescent lust (“F**k Time,” “Lady Cobra” and “Makeout Party”, for example), punctuated with songs framed in the aftermath of excess (“Ashley,” “Lazy Bones”). The latter conveys the most honest expression of regret: “ ‘Cause I’m so tired I can’t take it anymore / With all the liars like a prisoner of war / I don’t want your sympathy / I don’t want your honesty / I just want to get some peace of mind.”
To me, one of the standout tracks on the album is the closer, “Amy,” a moving tribute to the late Amy Winehouse performed by Armstrong and a single guitar. And considering Amy’s fate—the result of substance abuse—here’s where I have to give in to the temptation to tie it in with Armstrong’s recent troubles. The presence of this tune on the record is simply haunting given the circumstances. If anything, it brings hope that Armstrong’s current attempt at rehab is genuine, and that he’s going to get better.
Finally, the release of ¡Dos! actually gives us a sense of context for where this trilogy is going. ¡Uno! echoed the early days of the band, while ¡Dos! reflects more of where the band has gone from there. Apparently, this is a Green Day history lesson, only with original tunes rather than “greatest hits.” If ¡Tre! ends up sounding like a musical, I’ll know I was on the right track.