Album Review: ¡Uno!

★★★★☆

It’s hard to believe that anything with a name like “one” could represent a return to one’s roots. ¡Uno!, stadium sellout super-band Green Day’s latest album, is like a special-edition version of 1994’s Dookie, with a little 21st-century sheen and some American Idiot mixed in.

¡Uno! is just the first installment of a trilogy. Released on Sept. 24 – hot on the heels of lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s highly publicized concert meltdown and subsequent rehab check-in – the record is punk rock with a whole lot of pop appeal.

The first single “Oh Love” is sappy by Green Day standards, although the slightly sleazy music video more than makes up for the endearing lyrics. “Stay the Night,” “Sweet 16,” and “Fell For You” are all similarly tame, both lyrically and musically.

Album opener “Nuclear Family,” however, brings some punch, and it has probably the heaviest amount of punk on the album. Next to the nostalgic, sometimes soaring earworm “Rusty James,” it’s also easily the best.

Although the band seems to be done with making big sweeping statements – eschewing the heavy political and religious subject matter of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown in favor of simple tracks with lighthearted hooks – that isn’t to say ¡Uno! is entirely devoid of meaning.

Dance-popish second single “Kill the DJ,” for example, may come off as a catchy joke, but there is a real range of emotion on this record.

The tracks take us from love to heartbreak to anger to delirium and get pretty meaningful at times. Plus, pre-“Jesus of Suburbia” from American Idiot, Green Day was a radio-friendly punk band without much of an agenda. They were fun then, and they’re still fun now.

From a long-term fan’s critical perspective, ¡Uno! is absolutely not Green Day’s best work. In all likelihood, ¡Dos!, due out Nov. 13, and ¡Tré!, due Jan. 15, 2013, will be of a similar caliber.

This band, however, has been around for quite a while and made some pretty incredible music for the masses over the years. Who are we to blame them for rocking out like it’s 1994?