Green Day’s ‘¡DOS!’: Album Review

cstutz | November 13, 2012 6:30 am
¡DOS! (out today, ), The second installation in Green Day‘s current trilogy of releases, begins with the home-recording sounds of ambient background noise and Billie Joe Armstrong striking muffled guitar strings before launching into the minute-long opening track, “See You Tonight.” It’s a discordant, quickly forgotten bit that lasts just a couple seconds, but is tone-establishing, intentionally unpolished and personal, bringing listeners close, quickly, like one moves to an old jukebox. And, just as soon, it’s out of mind as thin-sounding strokes on a Les Paul Junior start in and Armstrong croons with a timeless manner in layered harmonizing vocals, “Maybe I’ll see you tonight. Wherever the night takes you, maybe you’ll see me too.”

In contrast to the regrettably old-(in age, not in time)-sounding teenage anthems that filled ¡UNO!, the first of the trilogy, on ¡DOS! the East Bay Kings of Pop Punk lay off most of the bratty pandering in favor of good ol’ fashioned love songs. Retro-rock runs deep here with decent success. Dipping into the more carefree party roots of the band’s garage-y side-project, Foxboro Hot Tubs, ¡DOS! is filled with moving bass lines and catchy melodies.

There are missteps, sure, like on that second track, “Fuck Time,” where Armstrong belts out over the 12-bar blues, “Baby, baby, it’s fuck time!” or on “Baby Eyes,” which starts out well until the singer works himself into a clichéd dead end with the line “Baby, baby I was born to…kill!” Such instances are enough to leave one laughing a little with a grimace and cock-eyed stare, like, “Really?” But they are also widely pardoned by the album’s general playfulness, nonstop pep, perfect doo-wop backing vocals and wicked cheekiness. (How else should one regard “Fuck Time,” anyway?) The moments of brilliance are such skilled showings of catchy songwriting that it’s easy to shrug off whatever may feel cheesy, clichéd or, simply, like it does not work.

One blaring turd that stands out on the album: “Nightlife,” an incredibly skip-able stylistic departure for the band, drenched in vocal effects, molesting some ska influence before the female-rapping verses kick in. It’s so bad the song should be a joke. It’s practically unlistenable and — one would think — instantly regrettable. Regardless, ¡DOS! provides hope that the ¡UNO!, ¡DOS!, ¡TRE! series may finish strong yet, largely thanks to tracks such as “Stray Heart,” “Wild One” and “Lazy Bone,” all of which seem to revive a Green Day of yore by picking up where the band left off with Nimrod or, maybe, Warning (before Armstrong and Friends got caught up in the rock-opera concept albums).

The final song of ¡DOS!‘s 13 tracks is an Armstrong solo number. Called “Amy,” it’s a tribute to Amy Winehouse, led by a guitar plucking chord progression, that paints the image of a woman misunderstood, out of time and place, revolving around the chorus, “Amy don’t you go / I want you around / singin’, woah please don’t go / do you want to be a friend of mine?” As a songwriter, Armstrong’s strengths and weaknesses are blaring and apparent. His lyrics are often relatively inane but can edge towards plainly forthright, and his polished knack for poppy-writing fun here remains consistent. While his melody lines rarely take any surprising turns, their obviousness allows one to sing along with an instant ease, making for a fully inclusive product. It’s not high art, but it’s fun and easy, and after a decade’s departure, it’s a nice relief to have some semblance of the old band back without pretending they’re still actually the old band at all.

The Best Song Isn’t The Single: “Wild One” plays like the perfect B-side to the album’s first single, “Stray Eyes.” A bit slower and more sentimental, it takes a classic pop-rock ballad structure and appropriates it with ample distortion, ghostly backing vocals and Armstrong’s typically depraved lyricism, for a winning combination.

Pops Like: Green Day’s 1997 LP Nimrod, if it’d come out 35 years earlier — a catchy blend of pop-punk and early rock.

Best Listened To While..: Tearing up the high school sock hop with spiked punch and spiked hair, making out, making up or crying the whole night through.

Idolator Rating: 3.5/5

Colin Stutz