As ¡Uno!, the first installment of Cali-punk band Green Day’s announced three-album trilogy, is now available to the public, the band itself is surrounded with unrelated publicity that seems almost poetic for a punk band. Over the weekend, during a performance at the iHeartMusic Festival, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong threw an onstage tantrum, smashing his guitar to bits in response to a one-minute teleprompter warning. The next day, the band issued an apology and announced that Armstrong was entering rehab.
Ever since Green Day struck mainstream popularity and their songs started getting played on the Top 40, they’ve lived in the dichotomy between the benefits of superstardom and the accusations of selling out. Whether these recent unfortunate circumstances, or the songs on ¡Uno! itself, will do anything to redeem the band in the eyes of the “true punk” culture remains to be seen. What can be said, however, is that ¡Uno! marks a return to the basic, three-chord type of sound that made Green Day popular in the first place, howbeit with a bit more spit and polish production-wise.
This in itself seems like an apparent paradox. After all, this is probably the only punk band in history that had a Broadway musical created after one of their albums, and the announcement of a trilogy automatically places in people’s heads the idea of epic-ness and rock opera sensibilities. What ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! will offer us is yet unknown, but ¡Uno! is remarkably and surprisingly simple in its approach. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, self-indulgent part-one-of-a-three-part magnum opus. This is drums, bass, guitar and vocals, with very few frills—the kinds of songs that could easily be recorded live in one take, whether they actually were or not.
That being said, while this is really a digression from the “big” sound on more recent Green Day records, it’s not a full retreat to the days of Dookie. After all, these guys aren’t teenagers anymore. In an MTV interview back in June, Billie Joe Armstrong suggested as much when he discussed the making of the trilogy. “I love the punk stuff I grew up on,” he said. “But there are so many bands who make the mistake, ‘We’re going back, old-school.’ Well…you already did it.’” ¡Uno! does, however, seem to be signify a season of refocusing for the band, a time of trimming back, throwing out the excesses and big production, and just being a band again. If that’s the season Green Day is in, perhaps Armstrong’s entry into rehab is an important sign of the times.
As to why it is taking a three-album trilogy to complete that back-to-basics transition—well, I suppose that remains to be seen. But for fans of the stripped-back version of Green Day, at least, ¡Uno! should definitely feel like a step in the right direction.