“Green Day’s Uno! as ‘Found Art’”

“Found art” is a pretty interesting concept, in case you’re not familiar with it. Wikipedia allots it the value of “art created from undisguised, but often modified, objects or products that are not normally considered materials from which art is made.” While I find this definition pretty punctilious, the way I understand it as it’s represented on the fine movie Ghost World is a little bit different: it encompasses objects which serve an artistic function which is displaced from their original setting and which is different from the object’s original function. A change in time or place, in other words, is typically necessary, and the example given in the movie is a black face logo for a restaurant called “Coon Chicken,” a manifestation of extreme racism but which was once the type of thing that was normal and mainstream. Recordings of birds or crickets on a studio piece of music would be another example of “found art” — a development which in theory is natural or mundane but in this case can tell us something innovative about who we are (which in this case would simply be that animal noises are soothing, or that they’re proper for studio recordings).

Well, Green Day’s Uno!, the first in the album trilogy which directly preceded Revolution Radio in the band’s discography, certainly was not met as great “art” upon its release. The mainstream radio picked it up right away, as I remember nodding my head vehemently along to “Oh Love” when I first heard it, but it scored lower than both 21st Century Breakdown and Revolution Radio on Metacritic, neither of which Green Day album is generally held to be the cornerstone of their career, or anything. Even the epic, energetic and inspired “Oh Love,” I remember, spawned some really snarky online comments (whereas I’d had a hard time imagining a better Green Day song or one within the pop-punk canon at large). Then, in terms of the second single from the album “Let Yourself Go,” I think there’s this disease we all have with Green Day of automatically thinking, “Is it better than ‘Basket Case?’” Sure, this is unrealistic, but we all think it nonetheless, and I myself am no different, definitely casting off “Let Yourself Go” and pretty much the rest of Uno with the possible exception of “Rusty James” and “Troublemaker” as contrived slop, concurrent with the album’s release.

Well, Uno! is contrived, but to its credit, it’s contrived from the m.o. of all things “Green Day” itself, which is different from doing a total ripoff album from another band, something lots of bands have been known to do of, well, Green Day (see Gaslight Anthem’s “Old White Lincoln” which borrows a rift directly from “Jesus of Suburbia”). Compared to Dookie, it’s thin. Compared to Insomniac, it’s tame. Compared to Nimrod, it’s not RELATIVELY underrated or misunderstood, although as juxtaposed with the band’s remaining catalogue, without question, it is just those things.

Anyway, here’s where I DEPICT what happened: I was getting pretty desperate on a trip home in a rented car with a random stack of CD’s I’d grabbed from my apartment which wasn’t really measuring up to the realm of transcendent, to say the least (one of the discs was Ghetto Fabolous, to give you an idea), so I was in the mood for listening to ANYTHING that might just pass the time and get me the rest of the way up to Michigan. Whereas, normally I never would have popped in Uno!, after hearing that debacle that was “Kill the DJ” and all its strange mayhem. I mean, awkward homicidal themes are even worse than the actual scary ones illustrated in certain Liars albums (or all Liars albums, maybe). So I braced myself and put in Uno!, six years and change after its release, and I dunno, something just happened: certain of the LP’s disappointing aspects dissipated and I realized just how much unrealistic pressure we can sometimes put on these artists to outdo themselves, when really, the fruits of them just going into the studio and having some fun can often be more pleasurable than what we instinctively acknowledge.


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