[Note: This review comes courtesy of C’mon and Cheer Me Up!]
When Green Day first announced their trio of albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong made some comments regarding the sound of each individual disc. ¡Uno!, he said, was more or less ‘classic’ Green Day, and he wasn’t lying, provided that he considers Green Day circa 1997-2000 as ‘classic’. Armstrong’s “garage rock by way of Foxboro Hot Tubs” description of ¡Dos! was dead-on, even if the album felt a little too same-y all the way through. And when it came to ¡Tré!, the third and final album of the trilogy, Armstrong said it would be a “mixed bag of reflective songs and some of the most epic arrangements”.
As it turns out, with three exceptions, that’s not really the case with ¡Tré!. A more accurate way of putting it would be “leftovers and scraps that really didn’t fit the themes of albums 1 and 2”. A lot of the songs aren’t necessarily bad, but there’s almost no way that a majority of the album would appeal to anyone who isn’t already a Green Day fan. Songs like “X-Kid”, “Sex, Drugs & Violence”, and “99 Revolutions” fit into that mold of ‘classic’ Green Day songs that ¡Uno! was allegedly full of (in fact, they probably would have been better for that album than songs like “Kill the DJ” or “Oh Love”). Tracks like “8th Avenue Serenade” and “Drama Queen” follow the trend of light experimentation of albums like nimrod or Warning (the former utilizes an odd opening riff that’s usually reserved for weird indie-punk bands, and the latter is a soft acoustic ditty that doesn’t quite reach ballad-levels of sappy). Most of the remaining tracks, “Missing You”, “Little Boy Named Train”, “Amanda”, and “Walk Away” aren’t awful songs, but there’s nothing that makes them stand out either, making ¡Tré! complacent with being an album that’s specifically for the fans and for no one else.
The instances in which ¡Tré! does break out into the promised “epic arrangements” are far and few in between, and they reach varying degrees of success. Closing track “The Forgotten” is the mandatory piano-driven ballad that was bound to make an appearance at some point during the band’s trilogy. Utilizing an array of stringed orchestral instruments, “The Forgotten” becomes the next song in the long line of sappy songs that include “Good Riddance”, “Macy’s Day Parade”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, and “21 Guns”; and much like each preceding song, “The Forgotten” is sure to take one step further than the previous one. The one positive thing that can be taken away from “The Forgotten” is that the political heavy-handedness of “21 Guns” has been downplayed. It’s nothing huge, but it’s a welcome step.
“Dirty Rotten Bastards” is probably the most interesting track on the album due to its all-over-the-place nature. Following in the spiritual footsteps of “Jesus of Suburbia”, and “Homecoming” off of American Idiot, and “American Eulogy” from 21st Century Breakdown, “Dirty Rotten Bastards” is a six and a half minute suite composed of smaller bits and pieces stitched together. Unlike the three aforementioned songs, there absolutely no real rhyme or reason to explain how this song came to be, and in its urgency it kind of forgets to give itself meaning. But if there’s any ambition to truly be found on ¡Tré!, a good portion of it is found right here. What starts off as an obnoxious chant over a drumbeat slowly builds into a straight ahead rock tune before exploding into a frantic mess by the end.
Perhaps the best and most successful of the “epic arrangements” songs on the album is the first track, “Brutal Love”. Starting slow with an appegiated guitar, “Brutal Love” quickly becomes an ode not just to heartache and love, but to 60’s pop and old doo wop crooners. While the lyrics are nothing to write home about, the real star of the song is Armstrong’s vocal ability. The song may not be very punk at all, but he’s never sounded this good, and out of all 37 tracks across three albums, this is where his voice shines the most. As disappointing as it is that most of the album settles for that standard late 90’s Green Day fare and plays like a bunch of b-sides to ¡Uno!, it helps to make “Brutal Love” stand out above the rest. Plus, too many crooning songs in this style would make for a boring album.
These three songs as the exceptions, ¡Tré! is without a doubt an album made for the fans, and it has no drive to turn over any new ones: the songs are stupidly happy being the way they are. And this is how a Green Day should sound, instead of stumbling over its ambition. What ¡Tré! lacks in diversity (where ¡Uno! shined), and definitely lacks in cohesiveness (like ¡Dos!), it makes up for with simplicity. This is the album that helps to put the other two in perspective. Even though it might have seemed logical for Green Day to just release a single album like this one, instead of a massive collection of new songs, ¡Tré! wouldn’t have been possible to follow up 21st Century Breakdown on its own- it just wouldn’t have made any sense. But after being put into the context of following two albums with a bit of variety and different styles of songs? Sure, why the hell not! ¡Tré! is rewarding for the faithful and longtime listeners; not so much for anyone else.
¡Tré! comes out December 11, 2012. You can listen to the stream right here.