The Curious Case of...
by Peter Crigler
In 2011, after wrapping up their touring cycle for their modestly successful, Grammy award winning 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day decided to take a break before starting work on their next record. In the meantime, they released the live album/DVD Awesome as Fuck in order to tide their fans over. They also continued working alongside the producers of the American Idiot Broadway musical and also announced they were planning on turning the musical into a film.
It was also during this time that many fans, including myself and several friends expressed hope that their next album would be a back to basics, quick, simple record. After the bombast of the Butch Vig produced 21st Century Breakdown, we, the fans felt like we needed some relief. While there were some good songs on the record, it just felt like a rehash of American Idiot and the storyline was a lot more difficult for certain people to interpret. It just felt like they were trying on too many hats and their musicality suffered as a result. They had even resorted to using several songs from the album in the storyline of the musical. Despite all their efforts, fans sighed and moved on to other bands. The album only went platinum or so but still somehow won the Grammy for Best Rock Album. Most notably, it didn’t spawn any huge hit singles that also became international superhits. The band began thinking that perhaps it was time to change strategy.
By the end of 2011, they had ended their break and announced on Facebook and Twitter that writing had started for the next record. They also announced that longtime touring guitarist Jason White had become a full blown member, officially making the band a quartet for the first time ever. In the spring of 2012, they moved into their home base, Jingletown Studios with longtime producer and mentor Rob Cavallo behind the boards. But somewhere along the line, they announced they were working on an epic project. They said they were working on a bunch of songs but they had no idea how everything would come out.
By the start of the summer, they announced they had basically finished tracking everything and they stated they would be releasing three separate records over the course of four months. The records were to be titled ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!. Fans were shocked because not only was it a crazy plan but it was going to be a lot of music to digest over such a short amount of time. About a month later in July, they started touring around the country, playing some clubs and bigger venues showcasing as much of the new material as they could. Fan reaction was very interesting because while the fans came out in droves to hear the songs they loved they were a bit confused by all of the new stuff.
In August, the first single from ¡Uno! hit the airwaves. The mid-tempo “Oh Love” was greeted warmly by radio programmers who played the hell out of the song and helped it debut at number one on the rock charts but fans were completely torn. Most of my friends hated the song and that seemed to also be the case from longtime hardcore fans who decried it as a piece of shit. The video did not help the situation; although they reunited with Samuel Bayer who directed all of the American Idiot videos, the end result was a clip that showed them playing the song with a bunch of models prancing around and lying all over each other seemingly disinterested in the band and the song. The song hit the charts and did fairly well overall but it was another dent in the armor of what had once been a band that could do no wrong.
Around that same time, they started releasing teasers of various songs on YouTube and also released a video for one of their most controversial tracks, “Kill the DJ” off of ¡Uno! The song was basically an up-tempo track with a dance beat. I personally like the song but others out there fucking HATED it. With all of this animosity and antipathy coming their way they announced that ¡Uno! would come out in September 2012, while ¡Dos! would make its appearance in November and ¡Tre! bringing up the rear, coming out in January of 2013.
The media met this news with incredulity; no rock band had put out three albums in less than a year, at least the seventies. But the band and their label, Reprise, stood by their plans and set out on the promotional train getting the word out about all the new shit. In early September, they announced a bunch of TV appearances including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” They also signed up to play the iHeartRadio Festival, one of the biggest, overblown kiss-ass radio festivals in the world. The festival was held in Las Vegas and the band were one of the few rock acts actually featured on the bill.
The festival occurred on September 21-23 of 2012 and from the start, nothing seemed wrong. The band were playing a mixture of new and old songs but then during one song, Billie Joe lost his shit and started ranting on the stage about how the band’s time was being cut short so that Usher could have a longer set. His rant went on for about five minutes and at one point, he started screaming at the crowd about how the band weren’t Justin Bieber and that the whole thing was fucking shit. Billie Joe ended his rant by smashing his guitar and walking off the stage proclaiming, “we’ll be back.” Of course, the crowd, which was filled with a bunch of tweens, cheered the whole time because they’d never seen anything like that.
The interesting thing about the performance was that it was being streamed live online and so in a matter of minutes, Billie Joe’s rant had gone viral and spread like wildfire all over the world. The next day, the news broke that Billie Joe’s rant had been caused by an over-consumption of alcohol and that he was immediately entering treatment for addiction to booze. This all happened less than a week before ¡Uno! was to be released. Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool leapt into action announcing the total cancellation and postponement of all imminent appearances and tour dates. All they asked is that fans keep Billie Joe in their thoughts and prayers as he began undergoing hardcore detox and rehab.
The next week ¡Uno! was unleashed on the world and ended up debuting at number two on the Billboard chart selling about 120,000 copies, which was down from what 21st Century Breakdown had sold three years earlier. The record was met with split reviews- folks from all these magazines that had always loved the band gave the record three to four stars while hardcore fans were torn. I liked the record and thought it was what the band needed to be doing all along while others were more critical, saying it was shit and that they were trying to relive their glory days. With no imminent touring to promote the record, the record label resorted to posting a lot of videos on YouTube. Very cheaply and sometimes crudely made, the videos helped keep the band’s fans entertained while they waited for the band to make their return to the stage.
Then around Halloween, Tre and Mike issued a statement saying that all of 2012’s upcoming commitments were now going to be canceled and a very few of them would be rebooked in 2013. Well this announcement was the coup de grace for longtime fans. Many of them were fed up with all the bullshit and decided they were done with the album and that ¡Uno! might as well be the last Green Day album as far as they were concerned. This was the last piece of news that would be heard from the band for what seemed like quite a while.
Cut to November 2012 and the release of ¡Dos! with this album there was no song on the radio promoting it so no one really knew what the single. A video for “Stray Heart” was making the rounds but it wasn’t getting a lot of play. When the album came out, it pretty much met with a resounding thud, debuting at number nine on the Billboard chart. In a sad twist of fate for both artists, Christina Aguilera’s new album, Lotus, ended up outselling ¡Dos!, but not by much; it debuted at number seven. Green Day didn’t make any announcements about the album or say anything though Rolling Stone did an interview with producer Rob Cavallo who commented that Billie Joe was home with his family.
¡Dos! is not a bad record, but it definitely has a lot of room for growth. It would be more than fair to say that ¡Dos! is as close to a Nimrod clone as you’re going to get in terms of experimentation. One song on the album, “Nightlife” is without a doubt the absolute nadir of the band’s career. A plodding, worn out beat, tired Billie Joe lyrics and the unexplained and totally strange presence of a female ‘rapper’ named Lady Cobra make it possibly one of the worst songs of 2012 that wasn’t done by LMFAO or Justin Bieber. If there was any of the three records that needed some editing or major trimming, it was this one- then perhaps ¡Dos! would’ve been a better record. The first half of the record is without a doubt the best half because by the end of the record, fans were just waiting to press the stop/eject button. Otherwise, perhaps the most surprising song there is the last one, “Amy,” a heartfelt and loving tribute to the dearly departed Amy Winehouse; without a doubt the standout of the whole record.
After the release of ¡Dos!, there was no more communication coming forth from the Green Day camp so when ¡Tre! came out in December there wasn’t any press at all regarding its release. Radio was still playing “Let Yourself Go” from ¡Uno!, so they weren’t any help. A video for “X-Kid” off ¡Tre! was making the rounds but all the clip was of a cassette tape playing in a stereo, similar in style to The Replacements’ video for “Bastards of Young.” So ¡Tre! came out and it did just as bad as everyone pretty much predicted based on what had happened over the past few months; the album ended up debuting at number 13 on the Billboard chart, becoming the very first Green Day record since 1992’s Kerplunk! to not hit the top 10 and to make matters worse, Kerplunk! never even charted and it still ended up going platinum.
Though magazines ended up giving the record fantastic reviews, in this writer’s opinion and the opinion of many other longtime fans, it was undoubtedly the worst of the bunch. All of the music sounds the same and the lyrics are worn out and tired and it all just seems the same old tired formula. There are only three decent tracks and the best track, “Dirty Rotten Bastards” is over six minutes long and sounds a lot like “Jesus Of Suburbia” off of American Idiot, in the way that it seems like several different tunes thrown together in a blender to create a nice little dish.
Without a doubt the most interesting thing about all three records that people discovered is the lyrics of most songs. Like most other Green Day albums, Billie Joe wrote from the heart and about what was going on in his life. Listening to the words, there are lots of references about drinking and partying and the typical sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll type material one has come to expect from Green Day. But in light of these recent events, they kind of take on a very sad tone and come off very melancholic and depressing.
Finally, after months of nothing productive from the camp, on December 31, 2012, Billie Joe announced on Instagram that the band would finally be hitting the road again... in March of 2013. The news was greeted with wild enthusiasm and hope for the future. But some fans are still iffy about the whole situation. What some longtime fans have stated that they should do is to mount what would essentially be a farewell tour, playing all of the great songs that everybody loves and knows and then play one final blowout where they blow the fucking roof off the venue one last time and then gracefully ride away into the sunset. Some other fans still believe that they have what might be a bright future ahead of them. All anybody knows is that whenever the time is right and Billie Joe, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool and Jason White can get their shit straight, they’ve got a lot to prove to everybody: to the record company, the promoters and most importantly to their fans that they can still be the band that everybody knows that they’ve always been. If they prove unable to pull off that hat trick, then it’s safe to say that you can stick a fork in their career. It’ll be very interesting to see in the next few months and year what unfolds in the history of this illustrious band.
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