Whatever else can be said about Green Day at the end of their three-albums-in-three-months blitzkrieg, no one can call them timid. Uno contained a handful of strong tracks and found the band in a stadium-rock mode that suited their sound comfortably, while Dos was a convincing, if slightly heavy-handed, ode to garage rock and mindless hedonism, but even if all three albums had turned out to be masterpieces, there always loomed the very real danger of Green Day overload.
Hearing the opening track to Tre, the doo-wop-flavored love song “Brutal Love,” you’d be forgiven for an initial flush of optimism. With its brass, piano, and glistening vocal harmonies, combined with barbed lyrics and power-pop guitar, it’s one of the most stylistically adventurous songs Green Day’s recorded since the varied and mature experiments of 2000’s Warning. But the album trips almost immediately: The second track, “Missing You,” is as uninspired a song as Green Day could probably record while still remaining conscious. In my review of Uno, I noted the song “Rusty James” sounds like a Mark II version of 1997’s “Scattered”; “Missing You” performs a similar service for “Uptight,” also from the band’s Nimrod album, suggesting that Green Day’s default setting, which they revert to whenever they’re not self-consciously forcing themselves to do something different, reads, “If found please return to 1997.”
It’s unclear what victory (or defeat) along the road of women’s liberation sentenced women to having their struggles sung about in uncomfortable detail by aging male rock stars. The band that once sang about how “masturbation’s lost its thrill” is now penning lines like “Everyone’s favorite drama queen is old enough to bleed” on the song “Drama Queen,” an awkward attempt at empathy. Green Day was probably trying to say something profound about the disconnect between growing up physiologically and actually being an adult, but out of the mouth of Billy Joe Armstrong, a 40-year-old man who’s just as likely to deliver a song like “It’s Fuck Time,” the incongruity of the sentiment leaves the song bordering on the offensive.
Stronger tracks include “99 Revolutions,” which harkens back to Uno with its expansive Who-inspired riff and political grandstanding. And the final track, “The Forgotten,” finds Green Day employing rich piano and strings in a Phil Spector-esque wall of sound. But on the whole, when not tedious or embarrassing, the remainder of Tre is simply not up to the task of proving why a third album in three months was necessary. It needed a self-possessed identity to justify its existence. Based on the strongest moments in the trilogy, it’s safe to say Green Day still has enough good ideas for a solid album. But listeners, limping with fatigue at the sameness of these three releases, might be justified in thinking we’ve long since heard it all.