IT’S the moment Green Day fans have been waiting for... for not that long really. The final part of the trio’s self-styled “epic as f***!” 2012 trilogy is upon us.
So far, this trilogy has yielded two fine, snappy albums. Released in September, the bratty, tuneful, three-chord punk pop of ¡Uno! (bearing frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s face on the sleeve) took the group back to their roots – a retrograde step, perhaps, but the choruses and the brio of the performance were not to be denied. This was followed last month by the more diverse musical cocktail of ¡Dos! (with bassist Mike Dirnt looking glaikit on the cover), which encompassed garage rock, power pop, new wave and rock’n’roll and, again, didn’t spare the tunes.
Now, hot on its heels, we have the would-be epic climax, which clocks in at a good ten minutes longer and is considerably slacker than its siblings. ¡Tré! – which could only feature drummer Tré Cool as its cover star – actually lands a month earlier than originally planned, its release brought forward to fill the gap created by the band’s cancelled tour dates following Armstrong’s public meltdown and subsequent stint in rehab. In another instance of bad timing, Green Day have saved the worst album for last.
The band have described ¡Uno! as the musical equivalent of getting hyped and ready for the party, ¡Dos! as embodying the spirit of being at the party and ¡Tré! as what happens after the party (with documentary ¡Quatro! presumably capturing the entire sprawling night out).
And what generally happens after the party? You have to clear up the mess, while nursing a hangover. So it is that ¡Tré!, far from going out with a flourish, becomes the dumping ground for the least inspired material to emerge from their writing/recording frenzy.
Opening track Brutal Love is at least a fine tune – that tune being Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me, which the trio have taken no pains to disguise, even rolling out the Memphis horn section and Armstrong’s best rhythm’n’blues delivery for the occasion, while adding a guitar solo for that We Will Rock You bombastic edge and a more masochist take on the standard heartache lyric.
There is further punk heartbreak and confusion (“I punched the walls, I hit the street... I’m a f***ing disaster”) on Missing You, a likeable slice of chugga-chugga power pop, before the album goes into a long creative skid.
8th Ave Serenade is strictly by the numbers, like Snow Patrol on one of their upbeat numbers.
The acoustic Drama Queen is a pithy but queasy character sketch about a girl who “is old enough to bleed now”, while tired headbanger Little Boy Named Train was inspired by the fate of an intersex child. X-Kid, meanwhile, is another song about growing up and loss of innocence. But, along with the equally absent-mindedly catchy Sex, Drugs And Violence, it feels like we have been here before, and often, with greater impact.
By the time they pitch up at the bubblegum rocker Amanda, it really is time to change the tune, which they do to an extent on Walk Away, a sturdy AM radio rocker which goes for broke with a key change/guitar solo double whammy. It may be cheesy but it’s a welcome break from a bunch of pedestrian thrashers which sound like second division versions of the sound on which they built their career 20 years ago.
They are not done with the slight returns, however. Dirty Rotten Bastards is another song suite in the portmanteau style of Jesus Of Suburbia, pinballing from kiddie punk pop through beefy altrock and straight on through to punk boogie via a nosebleed bass run and a hint of Dead Kennedys belligerence. There’s a suggestion of scale, of characters and storyline but it’s a pretty messy, even tokenistic revival of their American Idiot MO.
Then there’s just about time for a quick singalonga Occupy movement moment called 99 Revolutions which feels redundant, not to mention tardy, before they wheel out the lighters-aloft closing credits piano ballad. The Forgotten arguably says more about Armstrong’s classic songwriting chops than any of his punkier efforts but unfortunately it is smothered in soppy strings and feeble button-pushing lyrics about scars, war, loss of faith, roaming spirits, empty hallways and blah, blah, blah, before finishing up with a couple of clumsy lines worthy of Noel Gallagher – “don’t look away from the arms of a moment” anyone?
It’s a pity to undermine a perfectly laudable and workable concept but now that the trilogy has been completed in such “will-this-do?” fashion, with overly familiar chord patterns and lazy lyrics, one wonders why the band didn’t just pick the best dozen songs from the batch in the first place and release one top notch Green Day album, rather than three in descending order of merit.