One moment Billie Joe Armstrong was excited about a return to simplicity, embracing the joy of rock and roll.
The next the Green Day frontman was recovering in rehab for substance abuse after a meltdown onstage, hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
So we’re left with Uno! – first of a trilogy released over four months, the others being Dos! and Tré! – but an entirely new context in which to listen to it. Because, you know sometimes words have two meanings.
“After the concept albums, we wanted something punchier, more power pop, somewhere between early Beatles and AC/DC,” Billie explained before his breakdown.
“My son had asked me: ‘Dad, would you ever go back to playing songs like from Kerplunk?’ Well, I love those records. I love the punk stuff I grew up on. But so many bands make the mistake of going back, old school.
“We changed the guitar sound, and the songs just kept coming. We came up with the idea of three albums, each with the face of a different member of the band on the cover. We wanted to make things more fun.”
And at a glance, more fun it is. These are short, sharp songs packaged in razor riffs, singalong hooks and bursting with Green Day gusto. You just know that each and every one carries a live gig guarantee. If you want the soundtrack to a post-punk party, you’re in the right place.
But listen more carefully and lyrics such as “it won’t be long until I detonate” now seem less a war cry, more a cry for help. Songs such as Loss Of Control, in which Billie documents all manner of depravity, seem somehow different second time around. Both Fell For You, in which he admits “I’m a mess”, and the swaggering Troublemaker take on a darker shade.
Bassist Mike Dirnt says the three albums chart a progression: “You’re getting ready and charging to the party on the first record, then getting to the party on the second record, overstaying your welcome and doing a lot of damage. On the third album you’re looking for your car keys and doing some self-reflecting.”
It’s been suggested that the trilogy secretly charts Billie’s downfall – but only he can say for sure, and he’s otherwise occupied just now.