Green Day: Dos! – album review

Green Day – Dos!
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The second of Green Day’s trilogy of releases for 2012 hears the band regressing to their slightly purile version of punk pop.

Having managed to carve and sustain a 25-year-long career out of just power-chords, Green Day are undoubtedly the masters of the three chord song.

Whilst their peers have wilted much like a malnourished, neglected flowering plant, with ‘American Idiot’ Green Day proved the Japanese Knotweed of the pop punk collective – persistently growing stronger and dominating the competition if not seemingly, for a short while, the entire music world. Whilst I am absolutely certain it is not often they get compared to a Japanese Knotweed, (if ever), what I am trying to say – in, admittedly, overly elaborate botanical terminology – is that, Green Day have always maintained an impressive ability to remain relevant and interesting whilst their peers struggled.

Their collective desire to change and evolve their sound has often been their greatest strength, if not their elixir of life, resulting in an impressively eclectic product in 2000’s ‘Warning’. However, this time around with their trio of albums ‘¡Uno!’, ‘¡Dos!’ and the yet-to-be-released ‘¡Tré!’ the band seem to have opted for musical regression rather than progression.

Listening to ¡Dos! serves as listening to devolution (sorry Fundamentalist Christians) in action – if the Green Day of yesteryear was man, walking tall and domineering, then 2012 finds Green Day dragging their knuckles, beating their chests and, for the first time in recent years, struggling for their survival.

Whilst the album’s opener ‘See you tonight’, with its syrupy, honeyed melody remains reminiscent of early Green Day circa ‘Kerplunk’ due to its tinny guitar and Billie Joe’s sickeningly sweet, transparent lyrics, it is short-lived and serves as a pre-cursor to what the group have claimed is the ‘beginning of the party’.

Now, perhaps I just haven’t lived, but I can’t say I have ever been to a party whereby ‘Fuck Time’ is on the itinerary (but then again I do not make a habit of attending swinging parties so perhaps that is where I am going wrong) but as it happens this is exactly what is on the agenda at a Green Day party.

Two songs into ¡Dos! and Billie-Joe, like an overenthusiastic Jack Russell, is already trying to jump your bones – regressing into an ape-like, animalistic mentality he declares ‘Oh baby, baby it’s Fuck time!/You know I really wanna make you mine’ before more ominously stating that he wants to ‘Choke you ‘til you’re blue in the face’. Whilst I am not anyone to question other people’s sexual preferences or turn ons, the latter proposition does seem somewhat terrifying and has ensured that I will certainly not be attending a Green Day party anytime soon. The song serves as a classic example of something you really shouldn’t like, with its startling frankness and quite openly generic blues riff, but proves quite the ear worm – burrowing deep into the listeners subconscious – it is ridiculously catchy and, for future reference, not the best tune to sing in the shower to in a shared house… take it from personal experience.

It is upon reaching the third track of the record ‘Stop when the red lights flash’, that the problems with the album, namely its intermittent patchiness and limited variety, begin to surface. My initial impression of the aforementioned track left me desperately wracking my brain to figure out which song, out of their extensive three-chord based back catalogue, Green Day had ripped off in order to come up with this ‘new’ one.

Like several tracks on the album, including ‘Ashley’, ‘Stop when the red lights flash’ sounds tragically as if they’ve taken an older track and then done a proverbial copy and paste job, with less satisfying results than the original. ‘Make-out Party’ delivers a similarly unsatisfying result, as Green Day revisit the sort of party your 13 year old virginal self (or perhaps not?!) eagerly anticipates, complete with ‘spin the bottle’ and ‘truth or dare’, whilst your adult self reflects in horror at. With Green Day’s members now each in their forties, one can’t help but think that the tune proves an embarrassing and ultimately for-the-sake-of-it track– the sort that even the masters of immaturity, Blink-182, wouldn’t touch nowadays.

Whilst lyrical content is weak and almost detached at times, ‘Lazy Bones’ shines amongst the more mundane and predictable, touching upon more poignant themes that resonate with singer Billie-Joe Armstrong’s current on going struggles with substance abuse; when he achingly laments that he feels like a ‘prisoner of war’ trapped by his own condition, the listener knows, perhaps for the first time on the album, Billie-Joe means what he says. This particular number sees Green Day at their power chord chugging best – think ‘Longview’ sans any hints to masturbation and also, sadly, sans that magnificent LSD inspired bass riff.

Whilst ‘Wild One’ is not a patch on the sentimentality of ‘Lazy Bones’, the expression in Billie-Joe’s voice; conveying pure exhaustion as if the aforementioned ‘Wild One’ has rid him of all his energy (perhaps during ‘Fuck Time’?); over the strained guitar and swooping backing vocals makes it instantly memorable – again, in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

Fortunately, unlike its predecessor, ¡Dos!’s single choice, ‘Stray Heart’, is not quite as shamelessly commercial as ¡Uno!’s ‘Kill the DJ’. Having said this, it would still have those purist punks of 924 Gilman St who condemned Green Day’s commercial sound all those years ago reeling in disgust and rightly so as ‘Stray Heart’ proves an incredibly radio-friendly and accessible single. Whilst it may appeal to the masses and the uninitiated, this accessibility is at the expense of any real lyrical or musical depth, with the exception of Mike Dirnt’s bass riff which in itself sounds as if it was not so subtly borrowed from The Jam’s ‘A town called Malice’.

Green Day further stray into the shamelessly commercial territory with ‘Nightlife’. Featuring ‘Lady Cobra’ as a guest vocalist, the only saving grace and point of interest in this track, AKA Green Day’s cringe-worthy attempt at hip-hop, remains the infectious groove provided by Mike Dirnt’s dub inspired bass-line and the ever-solid drum work of Tré Cool.

Perhaps I have outgrown Green Day somewhat, much like how I have similarly outgrown the American Idiot hoodie I once donned faithfully like a second skin, and hence the disappointment with ¡Dos!. On the other hand, if not taken too seriously and accepted for its flaws and predictability, ¡Dos! has its enjoyable moments and is very listenable.

It is when it is compared to some of their best work, however, that the group’s second output of the trilogy is exposed for what it really is in the grand scheme of their back catalogue: a limp, flaccid offering that from the outset promises power but never quite delivers that fatal punch.

All words by Soph Lord. You can read more from Soph on LTW here.

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