Nearly everything about Green Day – their Berkeley-to-Broadway trajectory, their cross-generational worldwide popularity, and their enduring status as mainstream radio mainstays – breaks all the punk rules, and their ninth album is no exception. Following up two hugely ambitious and successful conceptual works with a three-album trilogy that’s scheduled to be released over a scant four-month period is unprecedented and potentially foolhardy. This, the first installment, should logically suggest that the Bay Area trio’s punk-pop well has finally dried up. Instead it’s one of their front-to-back catchiest and brattiest discs, which is no mean feat. Celebrating each of their 40th birthdays this year, ¡Uno! blows raspberries in the face of maturity.
Billy Joe Armstrong can be a thoughtful lyricist, as much of the band’s output since “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” particularly American Idiot, has proven. But here his incendiary imagery is sometimes at odds with the music: “Kill the DJ” undermines an otherwise lighthearted disco-rock romp with a jumbled metaphorical commentary on clubbing and mind-control. It’s likely that this record packs more F-bombs than all of the threesome’s previous releases combined, yet most of its tunes – particularly the love songs “Fell Into You” and “Sweet 16″ – rank among the band’s sweetest. Freedom from the bombast of big statements means that the production, melodies, and performances are all more affable than anything since 2000′s folk-inspired Warning. It’s likely that ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! will be wilder and rawer; musically, at least, ¡Uno! is Green Day at their poppiest.