”Aren’t we all too young to die?” Billie Joe Armstrong asks on Green Day’s new album, ¡Uno!. Let’s consider the answer: Nearly 20 years after his band broke out with Dookie, he’s pledging to skip his high school reunion (”Loss of Control”), ranting about music these days (”Kill the DJ”), and worrying that he’ll go into cardiac arrest (”Troublemaker”).
So, no, he’s not too young to die. But he doesn’t want to be old enough to know better. ¡Uno! finds him itching to get on his skateboard and ride it back to 1994.
The album does mark Green Day’s return to the raw power of their early days. But it also draws from vintage rock & roll, both in its nods to the Who and Cheap Trick and in its release format. The first part of a trilogy (¡Dos! comes out in November, ¡Tré! in January), ¡Uno! finds the band following a hot-off-the-pressing-plant schedule, like the Beatles once did. Armstrong even seems annoyed about contemporary rock: ”Kill the DJ” sounds so much like a spoof of Franz Ferdinand’s ”Take Me Out” that you’ll wonder if he’s actually mocking it.
After the Great American Album aspirations of 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown, ¡Uno! is a welcome switch from high concept to high energy; check the loud-fast ”Let Yourself Go.” Still, it’s strange to hear such a progressive guy insist that things were better in the past, especially on ”Sweet 16” and ”Rusty James,” which finds Armstrong shouting, ”Where the hell is the old gang at?” Maybe he’s the old gang now.
No Doubt came up in the California punk scene at the same time as Green Day, but they were so much older then. They sound like younger ragamuffins now. On Push and Shove, their first new album in 11 years, they’re inspired by all kinds of new music, from M.I.A.’s agit-pop (on the hella-good ”Settle Down”) to Major Lazer’s neo-dancehall (the horn-blown banger ”Push and Shove”), and Gwen Stefani pogos as hard as she did in her Anaheim-strip-mall ska days. But she’s also just as neurotic, which adds depth to her love songs. She might sound like she’s bragging on ”Looking Hot,” until you realize she’s actually worried about how many leather-hot-pants days she has left. ”Better hurry,” she warbles, ”Running out of time.” She shouldn’t worry; as long as she still sounds this good, she can wear whatever she wants. ¡Uno!: B, Push and Shove: B+
Best Tracks: Green Day ”Carpe Diem,” ”Let Yourself Go;” No Doubt ”Push and Shove,” ”Settle Down”