Today we get ¡Dos!, Green Day's second album of 2012. And no, this doesn't mean Billie Joe Armstrong is out of rehab yet. He's still tucked away, recovering from apparently serious issues with alcohol and prescription drugs, and we wish him all the best.
Meanwhile, ¡Dos! is an intriguing listen: Like its predecessor, which came out only in September, this new record finds Green Day meandering all over the rock map, from snappy pop-punk a la Dookie to throwback punkabilly to White Stripes-y blues rawk. It's also surprisingly heavy at times -- low and fast and crunchy enough to trigger memories of a certain other gigantic Bay Area rock band with a few personal issues and a wildly varying studio output.
This got us thinking: Is Green Day actually becoming Metallica? Not literally of course, because that would be impossible. (And because Tre Cool could drum circles around Lars Ulrich any day.) But Green Day is becoming like Metallica in a few significant ways. Consider:
1. Green Day sounds thrashier than ever.
Many of the new Green Day songs feel like better-produced and less snotty takes on the three-chord pop punk that the band made its name with. But there are also some leftfield experiments ("Nightlife," huh?) and a few songs so heavy and fast that they all but demand headbanging. Stay with us here, and tell us if you've ever heard Green Day sound as brutal as they do on "Stop When the Red Lights Flash" or "Make Out Party," both off of ¡Dos!. If American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown were Green Day's equivalent of Load and Reload -- similar, albeit far more successful, bids for continued relevance in a drastically changed musical landscape -- then so far, ¡Uno! and ¡Dos! are like a combination of Garage Days and Death Magnetic: Doubling down on the band's core sound while showing the diversity of the band's tastes and its ability to play almost anything.
2. Their rock 'n' roll lifestyle days are over.
Yes, kids, rehab! James Hetfield did it in 2001, and Billie Joe Armstrong is doing it now. Of course, a lot of musicians (and regular people) take time off to get sober. And unlike Metallica, Green Day hasn't yet made an embarrassing documentary that airs the members' dirty laundry for all to see. It's also worth mentioning that unlike Metallica's St. Anger, which was made after Hetfield got sober, the three new Green Day albums were recorded before the meltdown that led Billie Joe to enter rehab. But still: Armstrong's temporary departure was a sign that all was not well with this band, despite the world-shaking success it found in the last decade. Green Day had hit a point where at least one of its members simply couldn't continue living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle anymore. So both Green Day and Metallica, having reached essentially the highest stratum of rock popularity, both had a kind of fall back to Earth.
3. Both can fill that "Giant Rock Band" slot.
Which brings us to our last point: That because of the rarefied atmosphere in which both Green Day and Metallica exist -- The Rock Band That Can Still Fill a Stadium in 2012 -- these two acts have developed a kind of interchangeability. Both have songs that are now part of the cultural landscape. Both had odd spectacles of side projects (Broadway musical for Green Day, the S.F. Symphony for Metallica). And both can still (we hope) be guaranteed to put on a massive, pyro-filled, average-person-rocking live show, wherever they're booked. Not many guitar bands can do that anymore. Which may be why last month, when Green Day had to pull out of New Orleans' Voodoo Festival due to Armstrong's time in rehab, organizers chose a certain other dependable Bay Area rock band to fill its slot. "We're hoping we can fill those very large shoes and do them proud," Metallica's Ulrich said in a statement. A decade ago such a switch would've been unimaginable -- but now it just goes to show how similar these two bands have become.