Monday saw the premiere of Green Day’s newest single, the public’s first taste of an audacious album trilogy that will see its first installment, ¡Uno!, hit stores in September. As a longtime fan (Dookie and Nimrod practically soundtracked my high school years), I’ve had mixed feelings regarding the trio’s more ambitious post-American Idiot undertakings (increasingly ponderous music videos, a second rock opera LP, an honest-to-God Broadway musical). It’s laudable that Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool are so intent on broadening their stylistic palette and challenging themselves creatively so far into their career, but the manner they’ve gone about it has felt increasingly stuffy and po-faced with each new “We’re an Important Band now” gesture. Luckily, Armstrong was quoted by Rolling Stone last month as saying, “The last record got so serious. We wanted to make things more fun”, which was a much-welcomed comment to hear after years of plodding ballads like “21 Guns” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends”.
Of the forthcoming trio of albums, ¡Uno! has been touted by the band as the “power pop” installment. Don’t expect its lead single to be a tight, punchy number in the vein of the Romantics or the Plimsouls, though. “Oh Love” is an overly long — just a shade over five minutes — track by Green Day standards, one that moves casually and gives generous space to the scratchy strum of its sharp, trebly rhythm guitars as it takes its sweet time to get to each chorus. It’s a self-consciously anthemic number seemingly written with the express purpose of inciting crowd sing-alongs (there’s even a pitched-to-the-back-of-the rafters Big Guitar Solo two-thirds of the way through). Which isn’t a negative in of itself; every superstar band worth its salt has to have something on the setlist to coax arena-sized audiences into holding aloft their pocket lighters at some point during a show, after all. But though there’s a core of a decent song here, it’s not substantial enough to warrant the stretched-out pomp Green Day casts it in.
So “Oh Love” isn’t all that fun, it’s a shame to say. It’s several bars longer than it needs to be and could stand to have a little more pizzazz in its execution to move it along at a more engaging pace. But its melody is a grower, aided by Billie Joe Armstrong’s steady refinement as a vocalist over the last decade. No longer the snotty brat punk of Dookie, Armstrong earns his place as the point of focus on this track as he belts out his pining lyrics to the cheap seats and wrings out each phrase for all it’s worth (take special note of how he shifts to falsetto for a split second to coo the words “in love” in the bridge). Though “Oh Love” is by no means the most stupendous lead single Green Day has ever issued, it isn’t a dog either, and its stronger points (read: Armstrong’s vocals) hold up well compared to its shortcomings after repeated listens. Nevertheless, I hope this isn’t as playful as ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! will get. Now that would be a real bummer.