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Green Day, ‘¡Tre!’ (Reprise)

This is 40 / Photo by Getty
SPIN Rating: 6 of 10
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Label: Reprise

The fact that Green Day have released a back-to-roots/back-to-basics trilogy the same year each of its core members turned 40 makes all sorts of sense now that the final chapter is upon us. Our poor East Bay punks are experiencing one full-blown, collective midlife crisis.

¡Uno!, with rambunctious tracks like “Kill the DJ” and “Troublemaker,” was the trio shooting Patron with the kids; ¡Dos!, with its retro garage rock, soundtracked their purchase of a vintage Porsche 911. But ¡Tré! finds them finally facing reality: “Hey, little kid / Did you wake up late one day/ And you’re not so young, but you’re still dumb / And you’re numb to your old glory, but now it’s gone,” Billie Joe Armstrong howls on “X-Kid,” and it’s hard not to think X equals him. Especially when he admits, on the very next song, “I took a wrong turn in growing up and it’s freaking me out / Sometimes I must regress / Sex, drugs, and violence.” Seeing as he’s currently in rehab, art doesn’t simply imitate life, it literally reveals it.

Thus, ¡Tré! is not nearly the vivacious “Let Yourself Go”/”Fuck Time” party of its two predecessors. The music may be just as strong, tight, and impeccable — this is a band that’s been going at it for more than a quarter of a century, after all — but there’s a lightness missing here, a lack of passion. Even the release itself didn’t get much fanfare after getting bumped up a month, seemingly just to get it out of the way. Pop-punk tracks like “Missing You,” “8th Avenue Serenade,” and “Sex, Drugs & Violence” are haunted by the ghosts of Dookie and Nimrod, but don’t ever transcend either. Still, the band does some interesting things here, pulling off horn-inflected blue-eyed soul on the sweet “Brutal Love” (the riff almost sounds nicked from the Righteous Brothers) and swinging, piano-touched balladry on “Drama Queen.” With the addition of now-official member Jason White, intricate guitar parts beef up tracks like the mid-tempo rockers “X-Kid” and “Amanda,” and especially the pint-swaying punk suite “Dirty Rotten Bastards.”

Though ¡Tré! sounds more like the Green Day of the ’90s, its sentiments are more American Idiot, but turned inward. Armstrong’s battle was once sociopolitical; now it’s psychoanalytical. In fact, the band’s only political statement comes in a half-hearted (and rather tardy) contribution to the Occupy discourse with “99 Revolutions”: “We live in troubled times / And I’m 99 percent sure that something’s wrong.” (What could the other one percent of him possibly be thinking?!) The rest of the album has Armstrong soul-searching and love-lamenting, losing both control and confidence, crashing, burning, and even courting judgment day.

On closing ballad “The Forgotten,” he croons, “Where in the world did the time go?…Sometimes you’re better lost than to be seen.” The song was also prominent on the final Twilight soundtrack, which makes sense in a way. We romanticize our real-life rock stars the same way we do fictional vampires: as cool, mystifying, reckless immortals. But they’re not. They wear, they tear, they worry, they wrinkle, they crave simpler times. They blow up at Fucking Justin Bieber. The lucky ones even get to see 40.