Su­per band Green Day set out to make a back- to- ba­sics al­bum and ended up with three, writes James Wigney

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

Three al­bums for the price of one.

WHEN a band’s last two al­bums each won a Grammy for best rock al­bum, sold a com­bined 18 mil­lion copies, in­spired a Broad­way mu­si­cal and pro­pelled it to the sta­tus of a sta­dium act, where does it go from there?

For Green Day, the an­swer was clear – back to the be­gin­ning.

For most of the past decade, the US pop­punk trio ( pic­tured) has been one of the big­gest bands in the world thanks to its tow­er­ing twin rock op­eras, 2004’ s Amer­i­can Idiot and 21st Cen­tury Break­down in 2009.

The am­bi­tious, po­lit­i­cally charged epics, sump­tu­ously pro­duced by long- time col­lab­o­ra­tor Rob Cav­allo, had also proved to be some­thing of a ca­reer saver.

Af­ter blaz­ing on to the world stage in 1994 with their ma­jor la­bel de­but, the 10 mil­lion- sell­ing Dookie, the rest of the decade had pro­vided di­min­ish­ing re­turns for the band, cul­mi­nat­ing with the un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated Warn­ing in 2000.

The rock op­eras put them back on top and showed a new side to the once bratty ston­ers far be­yond the fu­ri­ous gui­tar, bass and drums of their for­ma­tive years.

But af­ter tour­ing the world sev­eral times in ever larger venues, the band was ex­hausted and look­ing for the next step – surely a third punk opera would be push­ing it.

So when chief song­writer, singer and gui­tarist Bil­lie Joe Arm­strong started writ­ing again af­ter a break, the songs that emerged when he and bassist Mike Dirnt and drum­mer Tre Cool re­con­vened in the stu­dio re­called not only the live en­ergy they had honed on their long tours, but also the ‘‘ clas­sic Green Day’’ of their early years.

‘‘ It wasn’t a re­ac­tion against it,’’ Arm­strong says of the back- to- ba­sics ap­proach com­pared with the dense, mul­ti­lay­ered rock op­eras.

‘‘ It was just time for a change. We try not to re­act against any­thing; it’s more about tak­ing ac­tion.’’

The new ap­proach also rein­vig­o­rated the band, which cel­e­brates the 25th an­niver­sary of its first live per­for­mance next month.

When they started to road- test the new songs in low- key gigs in New York and Cal­i­for­nia, with­out re­ly­ing on the ev­er­in­creas­ing cat­a­logue of hits, they felt like ‘‘ a brand new band again’’.

‘‘ It was the first time in a long time I felt like peo­ple were lis­ten­ing to brand new stuff and were look­ing at us like a for­eign ob­ject,’’ Arm­strong says.

‘‘ It was fright­en­ing and ex­cit­ing at the same time. I wanted to throw up and I wanted to pound a beer.’’

It soon be­came clear that just one al­bum wasn’t go­ing to cut it.

Rather than re­lease a dou­ble al­bum, they hit upon the slightly bonkers idea of re­leas­ing three sep­a­rate al­bums in quick suc­ces­sion: Uno! this week, Dos! in Novem­ber and Tre! in Jan­uary ( that’s One, Two and Three for the non- Span­ish speak­ers).

‘‘ There were too many re­ally good songs,’’ Arm­strong says. ‘‘ And we no­ticed that the con­sis­tency was all good and we didn’t want to waste any­thing.’’

While plenty of the songs are happy to get down and dirty – F--- Time and Make­out Party spring to mind – the clued- in Arm­strong hasn’t for­got­ten how to make a point ei­ther.

Kill the DJ lam­basts the avalanche of mean­ing­less spin and opin­ion from ‘‘ pun­dits and talk­ing heads’’. 99 Rev­o­lu­tions, one of the clos­ing tracks on Tre!, brings to mind the fury and dis­con­tent of the rock op­eras, ref­er­enc­ing the Oc­cupy move­ment, and con­tain­ing lines such as ‘‘ how did the work­ing stiffs be­come so ob­so­lete?’’.

About to hit the road again, and with an Aus­tralian tour likely in Fe­bru­ary or March next year, Arm­strong says the band is as fired up as ever.

‘‘ I look at it, like, as en­ergy,’’ he says. ‘‘ We want to be the best band in the world and we are still go­ing for that. We do that by work­ing re­ally hard and try­ing to tell the truth.’’

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