Green-Day-UNO.jpgGREEN DAY: ¡Uno!
Reprise, 42 minutes

Rating: 3/5

Though it kicks off a coordinated trilogy of albums, to conclude in January, ¡Uno! is the first Green Day record in 12 years that doesn't follow a concept. Their music hasn’t now (or ever) moved far from a bratty punk-pop centre with occasional emotional departure point, but without the burden of “story” or polemic vitriol they sound freer, more relaxed. With steps toward deeper lyrical content (“Carpe Diem”) and pre-punk rock influence (“Kill the DJ”), it's the sequel to Warning (2000) 20 per cent of their fans always wanted.

About “Kill the DJ”: in this album’s lead up frontman Billie Joe Armstrong described it as “straight-up dance music”, which would’ve been an entertaining, if not exactly smart, thing for the band to try. Alas, it’s the same old Green Day with a slightly funkier, four-on-the-floor beat. It’s a shame that, at their age, the band still has such a limited, even delusional sense of where its music can go. 

A new Green Day song is a bit like a latter-day Simpsons episode: its source meant a lot to many people of a certain age, and while its 2012 incarnation hasn’t change a whole lot, it’s hard to feel the same emotional response. But while a few of these songs (“Stay the Night,” “Oh Love”) could’ve been trimmed, it's an overall smooth return to format.


SNOWBLINK: Inner Classics 

Arts & Crafts, 35 minutes

Rating: 3.5/5

Toronto-based Snowblink are as far from surf rock as a guitar band can get. But the sport and its ocean source are running themes on their new album Inner Classics: “Pray for Surf,” “Unsurfed Waves,” lyrical images like “Buried up to your neck in sea and shell ...” 

Not surprisingly, frontwoman Daniela Gesundheit is a California transplant. There’s not a lot of surfing on our turf, and our water is usually cold and foreboding; Inner Classics appropriately feels detached from the bliss of summer. Gesundheit sings as if she were looking back on a great season, memories keeping her going. She’s brought to excitement only in brief moments, like the quick hoot of joy 1:25 into “Inner Mini-Mississippi.”

Snowblink is better at creating atmosphere than at writing songs. After a full listen I remembered more instrumental choices — like the beautiful synth that washes over “Black & White Mountains,” or the warm acoustic guitar in “Bounty” — than melodies. Even the best songs here take a few listens to register, appropriate for long autumn walks.

GraydonJamesCover.jpgGRAYDON JAMES & THE YOUNG NOVELISTS: in the year you were born
Self-Released, 47 minutes

Rating: 4/5

“Music doesn’t really matter much without an audience,” writes Graydon James in the liner notes to his second album. It’s like a blue-collar take on the ancient koan about a tree falling in the woods, a bit of accidental wisdom disguised as sentiment.

James's populist, friendly attitude serves him well. The chords to each song on in the year you were born are included under the lyrics. The album’s strongest song, “Standing Still,” is led not by he but vocalist Laura Spink. He seems deeply inspired by the prospect of working with, and for, other people; “(The Young Novelists) are all far, far better at their instruments than I’ve ever been,” he told us this past June with some unwarranted self-deprecation.

But with the same focus that made his 40-track debut goodnight, young novelist an unexpectedly breezy listen, James stays on task. Despite introducing additional players and apparently encouraging their own creative input, in the year you were born never feels like a kitchen too full of cooks. The tracks are never left to wander. The longest song (natch) “Long Long Long” deserves to be. As eager as he may be to defer singular credit, James is still the essential centre of his group.

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