Remember how, after he thought it'd been long enough for everyone to forget about Pinkerton, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo put out the green album, went back on MTV, and sang a bunch of frothy pop songs that never even pretended to mean anything? Catchy, featherweight singles like "Hash Pipe" and "Island in the Sun" marked the band's transition from a young, cultish group with some seriously awkward feelings to a simple-minded pop-rock band that was fun (sorta) but no longer dangerous. No more redheads shredding the cello or incendiary crushes on lesbians -- Weezer became one more radio staple, another vaguely quirky hit factory that happened to play guitars.
After a few listens to Green Day's new single, "Oh Love" -- the first taste of the band's trio of upcoming albums -- we're wondering if the Bay Area punk trio isn't heading for a similar place. It's too early to say exactly what Green Day's new vibe will be, but a new one is certainly in order: These guys just spent almost a decade hawking the operatic angst of American Idiot -- maybe their most important album of all -- and its follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown. Both of these records were born of the high-contrast distress of the Bush era, and tried to wrestle with a warring, oppressively unfair world using anarchy signs, stadium rock, and cute red ties.
Now, with "Oh Love" and Uno!, Green Day is attempting to wrestle with power-pop and romance. What we get here is five long minutes of capital riffage; big, jangly chords opening wide and slamming shut, with Billie Joe singing yearning lyrics about love, life, being close to you, etc. Unfortunately the whole thing feels way too slow -- dragging instead of rushing, missing that essential urgency of power pop. The song is tentative, almost perfunctory, as if Green Day feels compelled to do nothing except write big, obvious guitar songs that will probably sound okay on the radio.
"Oh Love" will do that -- there's nothing here to potentially offend radio programmers and playlist makers -- but then there's also nothing exciting or daring about it, unless you count turning down the guitar distortion as a risky move. What we have here is merely a solid effort -- a pleasant song that leaves no lasting impression, signals no new revelation or curveball moves to come. It's still too early to say what kind of place Green Day will occupy with its political period now in the past. We hope its not a Weezer-like decline into catchy irrelevance, though.