On November 12, Green Day release ‘¡Dos!’, the second (obviously) in their trilogy of 2012 albums. This one’s been billed as the “garage band” record and after the ohhhhkaaaay ‘¡Uno!’ we’re after a bit of spark. But are we going to get it? Well, we’ve had a sneak preview and these are our first impressions.
‘See You Tonight’
A gentle, minute-long acoustic strum which promises (in mildly stalker-ish fashion) that, “The colder it gets, you won’t see me anymore/ But there’s still a chance of a walk to your door,” this song sets up the idea of ‘¡Dos!’ as the trilogy’s ‘Party’ record quite well, though it’s really little more than thematic window-dressing.
It pains us to say it – mainly because the old ‘…but it’s supposed to be stupid!’ argument will rear its head in the comments – but of all the songs Green Day have recorded for this trilogy, ‘Fuck Time’ is (hopefully) the worst. Musically, it’s a sort of moronic, slope-foreheaded evolutionary cousin to Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’, one which makes that song sound like it’s pushing a progressive political agenda. It’s also not nearly as much fun as it thinks it is.
After a slightly muddled start, here’s where ‘¡Dos!’ really gets going. Clattering, relentless and defiantly old-skool, you have to admire the way its initially unremarkable refrain of “I’ll make you surrender” becomes an infernal, unkillable earworm through sheer force of repetition alone. This, we’re happy to report, is much more like it.
‘Lazy Bones’ opens with Strokes-esque sparseness – just a staccato rhythm guitar and metronomic drums – before quickly morphing into something that resembles ‘¡Uno!’’s more power-poppy moments. The song’s not bad, but the real interest, inevitably, lies in psychoanalysing its lyrics, which find Billie Joe declaring that, “The silence is so deafening/ It’s like picking at a sore/ I’m too mental to go crazy/ I’m too drunk to be pure”. Hmm.
On ‘Rusty James’, ‘¡Uno!’’s penultimate track, the band toyed with the iconography of 50s youth-rebellion (even if it was through the prism of a 1980s film, Rumblefish). That theme is revisited on ‘Wild One’, a Brylcreemed rocker complete with swooning backing vocals that starts off strong but ultimately overstays its welcome. Brevity is king, boys.
Like ‘Fuck Time’ (which started life as a Foxboro Hot Tubs song), this sounds like it was written with the band’s garage-rock alter-egos in mind. It’s pure throwaway nonsense, but it’s fun throwaway nonsense, which makes all the difference. That said, at 40 years old, Green Day may be a tad old for games of “Spin the bottle”.
Even if you haven’t heard it, you’ll know this one: it’s structured around a bassline that’s a direct lift from ‘A Town Called Malice’ (which in turn was lifted from Martha & The Vandellas’ ‘I’m Ready For Love’, which in turn was lifted from The Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, which in turn… etc, etc). It’s still a sparkling little finger-clicker of a song, though.
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Now this is bloody great, the sort of hepatitis-ridden thrash you’d expect to hear in an LA punk club in the early 80s, snarlingly melodic and played with a speed and ferocity which suggests digits may have been dislocated during its recording. That said, we wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of Armstrong’s ire here: “You say that you’re fine but I know that you ain’t/You’re looking like hell and you’re no fucking saint.” Charming.
Another short, sharp jolt of a song, this sits quite tidily next to ‘Ashley’ on the running order, though lyrically it finds Billie Joe in a markedly more self-analytical mood, variously likening himself to “The motor in your crashing car”, “The bullet in your magazine” and, most puzzlingly of all, “The cherub in the Arab spring”. All the wrath and bile of the previous song seems to have been directed towards himself here.
This song is the start of a kind of mid-album micro-narrative about the titular sleazy temptress who “Just wants to get me high” (among other things). The end-point of that narrative is the unfortunate ’Nightlife’, but taken on its own merits, it’s hard not to get swept up in this song’s brief (just 126 seconds), brutal riptide of Stooges-style garage rock.
One of the things these records have made a point of doing is occasionally dabbling in genres that Green Day normally – and, you’d have to say, wisely – don’t go near. On ‘¡Uno!’ it was ‘Kill The DJ’’s milquetoast indie-disco; on ‘¡Dos!’, it’s this. Featuring a supremely lame rap (“Better make a move before I get bored/ If you wanna explore my vocal cord”) from ‘Lady Cobra’ herself, we’ve no doubt hearts were in the right place, but everything else about this rap-rock crossover is just spectacularly wrong.
The band’s previous claim that ‘¡Dos!’ would be the psych-garage-flavoured entry in the trilogy doesn’t really hold up, but this song is probably the strongest argument for that particular case. It’s basically just made up of a load of disparate hooks, from the ‘Nuggets’-y guitar lick, to the piledriving Who-esque rhythm, to a sliver of melody appropriated from The Beatles’ ‘She’s A Woman’. Somehow, it all coalesces into something unexpectedly thrilling.
Billie Joe’s tribute to Amy Winehouse closes the album (and the ‘party’) on a hushed, cautionary note; one which, given recent events, seems even more spookily pertinent. It’s certainly no ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, but it is heartfelt and sincere, and ultimately fulfils a similar sort of role to ‘See You Tonight’ by teeing up the more reflective (or so we’re told) ‘¡Tré!’.
We were underwhelmed by ‘¡Uno!’, a record which confirmed that after a decade spent writing concept albums, Green Day could not simply flick a switch and go back to 1994. In spite of all its inconsistencies, however, ‘¡Dos!’ is a far more satisfying proposition. For a year that seemed to promise so much, 2012 has turned into Green Day’s annus horribilis: hopefully this represents the turning of the corner.