The letdown was inevitable.
After scaling considerable heights with 2004's politically charged American Idiot and 2009's 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day tries to reach back to its scrappy roots with ¡Uno!, the first in a planned trilogy of albums (sequels ¡ Dos! and ¡ Tre! are due out in November and January).
But having seen what Billie Joe Armstrong and his bandmates are capable of -- blending punk ferocity with resonant, pointed lyrics -- it becomes difficult to hear these straightforward, carefree songs as anything other than disappointing.
Let's be clear: Green Day remains musically proficient, but nothing on ¡Uno! quickens the pulse as much as anything on the previous two albums (or even anything else from the band's catalog, as far back as 1994's breakthrough Dookie).
Working with longtime producer Rob Cavallo, Green Day tries to embrace modes beyond three-chord rave-ups, trying for innocent pop fluff (Sweet 16) and profane rage against the corporate machine (the bitterly ironic Kill the DJ), but often falls back on what it's done best for 25 years -- bratty, messy rock music streaked with punk indifference.
Except the exhilaration of Green Day's kinetic past has been supplanted with a weary maturity -- Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt can still make a racket, but it feels perfunctory instead of liberating. (That tired feeling may be more deeply rooted than it first seemed: Armstrong went viral with an on-stage rant during the IHeartRadio festival on Sept. 22, and has checked into rehab for substance abuse issues.) What made Idiot and Breakdown so thrilling was hearing the band push beyond the confines of punk to make something bigger than themselves.
That kind of project is rare enough to begin with (and Breakdown pales in comparison to its predecessor) and, perhaps, Green Day feels like it has nowhere interesting to go at the moment.
The remaining albums could bring this trilogy's aims into sharper focus, but judged on its own, ¡Uno! too often sounds like a band giving its audience what it thinks it wants, rather than what it might need.
Listening to a track like the insistent Let Yourself Go, it's hard to discern whether the exhortation is aimed at the listener -- or the band.