Coming off two monstrously successful, sonically elaborate albums—2004’s American Idiot and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown—how could punk visionaries Green Day hope to top themselves? By releasing three distinct albums in one five-month span. Taken as a whole, however, the new material underscores that the trio finds solace in tradition rather than by pushing boundaries.
Although each album has a rough identity—the brisk ¡Uno! has more straightforward pop-punk/pop; ¡Dos! contains dirty, off-the-rails rock with ’70s flair; and the contemplative ¡Tré! vacillates between acoustic-based songs and buoyant ’90s alt-rock—collectively they share a deep reverence for musical history. Songs recall Cheap Trick (“Carpe Diem”), The White Stripes (“Lady Cobra”), The Kinks (“Fell for You”), later-period Replacements (the harmony-laden highlight “X-Kid”) and even The Strokes (“Stray Heart”), along with broader genres like Brit-pop (“Wild One”), early rock ’n’ roll (the stripped-down ballad “Amy”) and ’70s AM Gold (the schmaltzy, piano- and string-heavy “The Forgotten”).
Of the three albums, ¡Tré! is the weakest, mainly due to some plodding songwriting and an overall energy deficiency. In addition, listening to the entire set back-to-back-to-back can be a fatiguing exercise. Still, Green Day hasn’t totally abandoned its ability to innovate. The slinky, temptation-dripping ¡Dos! tune “Nightlife,” which features seductive vocals from Lady Cobra (aka Monica Painter), is a treat, and the trilogy’s punkiest moments (“Baby Eyes,” the bratty “Makeout Party” and the exuberant “Let Yourself Go”) are riotous. Clearly, finding comfort in and inspiration from the past hasn’t sapped Green Day’s ambition—or energy.