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Green Day's iUNO! - An Album Review

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In my last article about Green Day, I talked about censorship and Walmart that resulted in much debate, confusion and anger about the new direction Green Day had taken with the marketing of their music. It seemed Green Day had hit an irrevocable turning point many weren't sure what to do with. And then on Monday of this week, I heard the first album iUNO! in the upcoming trilogy in all its beautiful glory and proved once again, in the end, this band will never let its fans down, and their music will yet again transcend a new generation. I'm not exaggerating when I say almost every song on the album could successfully be released as a single in its own right; and despite this, it still manages to tell the story promised to us in interviews for months of the first chapter in the trilogy being the prelude of a man on the edge who's lusting after a more exciting life, and the turmoil and confusion he experiences before his fall into debauchery.

Before I get to the album review and the detailed interpretation of every song on the record in anticipation of its official release on September 25th, I'd like to provide an update and an apology to Green Day specifically regarding the issue of the censorship of their albums. I didn't anticipate backlash when I wrote the last article. To be honest, it still surprises me anybody reads my work in the first place, so I was truly alarmed when people began to rally in opposition of the band to the point of refusing to buy their music or support the band ever again. Anyone who takes a single, emotional, push-button issue to the extent they would deprive themselves of groundbreaking, exceptionally charged rock-n-roll is missing out on a great experience, and I'm sorry if anything I've written caused it.

Though many disagree, myself included, with the decision to offer "clean" versions of the album trilogy so they could be sold in Walmart, and especially their cleaning of the back catalogue, specifically "American Idiot," it cannot be denied Green Day listens to their fans and genuinely cares about what they think. Since my last article, though I don't know if it's in any way related, Green Day has removed the censored "American Idiot" video from their official YouTube channel and reinstated the original, uncensored video. In addition to that, and to the eternal gratitude and delight of their fans, they also released new, uncensored videos of two of the songs on iUNO!: "Let Yourself Go" and "Kill The DJ," and uncensored single releases of both songs as well.

They even went as far as to play the uncensored version of "Let Yourself Go" at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 6th, much to the amusement of their fans. Jason White, guitarist and newly inducted fourth member of Green Day, even wore a t-shirt at the VMA's that said "Free Pussy Riot," in reference to the Russian band sent to prison in an effort by those in authority to censor their political speech against the Russian government. Not only was Green Day the best performance of the night, being the only rock band playing live with actual instruments, but the FCC's requirement to silence all the profanity made portions of the song sound like MTV was having technical difficulties, something that still makes me laugh. The profanity in this song alone really is that extensive, but wildly effective given the tone and content. It was an epic moment and so perfectly Green Day.

Green Day's "Let Yourself Go" official live music video, filmed at Red 7 in Austin, Texas on November 17, 2011

The album iUNO! opens with the track "Nuclear Family," reminiscent of classic Green Day from the 90s, a straight-up fast pop-punk song that sets the stage for the story laid before us from the entire trilogy in the very first line "Gonna ride the world like a merry-go-round." This is a mid-life crisis in the making and the hell-ride has just begun, comparing it to "... a nuclear bomb/And it won't be long/'Til I detonate." One can easily imagine a man doing mundane, ordinary, everyday life in the suburbs just looking around at the wife, the 2.5 kids, the dog, taking out the garbage, driving the kids to soccer, etc... suddenly viewing his life with contempt and a burning desire for something else, which leads us into the second track "Stay The Night."

Opening with a solo guitar riff before it jumps into yet another fast, pop-punk classic Green Day from the 90s-like sound and style, it speaks of a man who's testing the waters before the affair. With lyrics such as "Well I ain't got much time/So I'll get to the point... I got an impulse so repulsive/That it burns" and "I wanna break your heart/Until it makes your stomach turn," it's clear he isn't yet ready to walk away completely from his current life and simply wants to use someone for the quick thrill, knowing all the while that it's wrong. Going back and forth through the confusion, he says "I gotta know if you're the one that got away/Even though we were never meant to be," indicating, at that point, he knows his current life is where he truly belongs, but is curious enough to see if maybe he's wrong, and setting the stage for the rationalization we get from the third track "Carpe Diem."

This is the decisive moment, the "... battle cry," when he looks around and sees his life as a slow death and realizes he's "Living a cliche/Gonna seize the day," grab life, "Get a second wind." It's the moment of hope that maybe he isn't dead after all; and then the fourth track "Let Yourself Go" steps in with a new attitude. Snotty, mean, fed up with his life and the people who surround him, he sees everything around him with new eyes. "Shut your mouth/'Cause you're talking too much/And I don't give a fuck anyway" and "You're getting on my every last nerve" as he screams repeatedly "Gotta let it go."

And then it's the fifth track of "Kill The DJ," a song so completely different from anything we've ever heard from Green Day and such an anomaly from the other songs on iUNO! in particular, it indicates a shift in tone, sound and style that tells us old Green Day from the 90s is gone and what's coming next is a variety of songs ranging the spectrum of genres from the 60s to the 70s to the 80s, from disco to punk to rock, and Green Day has added just enough of their own special voice and style to make all these old sounds the music industry tells us is dead into something refreshing and new and exciting. In essence, Green Day has gone and done it again, leading the charge to make music about music again, to make it pure once more, instead of the manufactured electronic crap dominating the industry.

"Kill The DJ" is a funky, cool, sexy, disco-like call-to-arms to, well, kill the DJ and reinstate the live shows and musicians and bands playing real instruments and engaging the audience, as if Green Day is on a mission to stop the insanity, by force if necessary. It is also the moment our guy moves from the attitude in "Let Yourself Go" to the action of going into the world to find the excitement he craves. It's boys night out to the extreme. The disturbing proclamation of "We are the vultures/The dirtiest kind/The culture wars/In your heart and your mind" tells us a war has been waged between what society expects of him and what his most basic animal instincts want, with the suggestion the animal instincts are winning out. And just as we adjust to this shift, there she is, the temptation strong enough to truly pull him over the edge and into the fall.

With a 60s-like vibe reminiscent of early Beatles, the sixth track on the album "Fell For You" is a beautiful, simple song about love and longing wrapped in an innocence that fosters the fear and confusion that accompanies it, the head against the heart, the need and want against the reality of the life he chose. "Had a dream/That I kissed your lips/And it felt so true/Then I woke up/As a nervous wreck/And I fell for you." and "I'll spend the night/Living in denial." He's just had a wet dream about a woman who isn't his wife, and though the content reveals a sexual frustration, the tone tells us it isn't really about the sex at all, and his attitude about the life that surrounds him comes back in full force with the seventh track "Loss of Control."

And we're into the fast punk of the 70s, a fun dance tune with the signature snotty, snarky attitude of classic Green Day. From the very beginning line of "I'm taking down all my enemies/Because they're all so fucking useless" we know he's done. He's had enough and the confusion is ebbing away, except now it's taken a twisted turn from the innocence of love into the hell-ride promised in "Nuclear Family." This is reinforced with the eight track "Troublemaker," which is a song about pure lust. He isn't talking in the metaphors and heart-felt sincerity of "Fell For You" anymore. "Troublemaker" is a straightforward declaration of exactly what he wants and finding the courage to tell her with lyrics like "I wanna be your troublemaker" and "I like your BM-excellent tits/With a tattoo of a pig sniffing glue." With a late-70s punk sound, this song is dirty, sexy, simple and perfect. And the relationship begins.

"Angel Blue," the ninth track on iUNO! is about the forbidden temptation in the form of the young woman he wants who's young enough to still hold the remnants of "teenage traces," as he asks her "Won't you be my bloody Valentine?" He's ready to finally give in, telling her "You're just a fucking kid/And no one ever gives you a break/You want it Senorita/And now your heart is gonna break." This song has a Chuck Berry feel to it that pulls us back into the music of the late 50s to early 60s, combined with the tone and attitude of modern punk; and our protagonist's heart and mind are ripped in two, split between the woman he's committed to and the new woman pulling him under.

The tenth track, "Sweet 16" is a reminiscent journey through his current life, a farewell of sorts to the love and life he and his wife once had before he falls completely into the affair with Angel Blue and the excitement of the new life he's hell-bent on enjoying to the fullest. Assuring his wife, "The kids are alright/As right as they'll ever be... 'Cause you will always be my sweet sixteen," this is the moment he decides to take the leap into the eleventh track of "Rusty James," leaving his old life behind, along with everything he's ever known. Scared and excited, he simply acknowledges "Well, there's no one left around/And you're the last gang in town," a celebration of sorts as he raises a glass in a toast to its demise.

If iUNO! is the prelude, iDOS! the climax, and iTRE! the denouement, the first album in the trilogy could not have ended with a better song than "Oh Love" as its final track. This song is the culmination of the journey, the moment he finally falls into the debauchery promised in the second album iDOS!, the song where he admits to "Talking myself out of feeling/Talking myself out of control/Talking myself out of falling in love." He's put his "heart on a noose" and left the emotional ties behind, and is taking the "free ride" promised in the cheap, easy party, begging life to "Please don't pass me by," as he dives into the free-fall coming to us in November with iDOS!

"Oh Love" by Green Day

Green Day's performance at the iHeartRadio Music Festival on Friday, September 21st, will be livestreamed beginning at 10:00pm EST at http://music.yahoo.com/programs/iheart/

There isn't an exact time yet of where Green Day falls in the line-up, but if the previous shows they've done over the last year in the run-up to the trilogy releases is any indication, it'll be worth getting to know the other acts before Green Day hits the stage.