October 08, 2012 12:00 PM

Green Day

¡Uno! |


After two concept albums that achieved rock-operatic heights-2004’s American Idiot and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown (the former even spawned a stage musical)-Green Day wants you to think they’ve scaled back their ambitions. But with ¡Uno! being the first of a trilogy (¡Dos! is due Nov. 13, while ¡Tre! drops Jan. 15), they are still raising the bar for punks everywhere. The songs themselves, more straightforward in structure, find them getting in touch with their inner adolescent as they hit middle age. “Time stands still/ As the years go by,” sings Billie Joe Armstrong about a woman who will always be his “Sweet 16.” That nostalgic feeling extends to the old-school Green Day of tracks like the ripping, raucous “Let Yourself Go” and “Troublemaker,” with its bad-boy swagger. Elsewhere, the trio struts their rebelliousness over the funky groove of “Kill the DJ.” Still, the highlight “Oh Love”-equal parts punk stomp and pop splendor-demonstrates just how much these boys have grown up.

No Doubt

Push and Shove |


Gwen Stefani reuniting with No Doubt to make another album once seemed as unlikely and pointless as Justin Timberlake getting back together with ‘N Sync. After all, she became a mega-star as a solo artist with 2004’s Love.Angel.Music.Baby. and 2006’s The Sweet Escape, making her the heir to Madonna’s throne before Lady Gaga came along. Perhaps that’s a big reason why it’s been 11(!) years since No Doubt’s last album, Rock Steady. But the quartet has no problem rediscovering their ska-pop mojo on “Settle Down,” the bumping first single and opening track of Push and Shove. With Tony Kanal slapping that bass and Stefani leading that “get-get-get” chant, it feels like old times. Then comes the blistering “Looking Hot,” which recaptures their SoCal punk spirit. Still, most of this reunion is filled with slow-to-midtempo pop songs that sound like they could be on a Gwen Stefani solo album.

Mumford & Sons

Babel |


Let’s start with what Babel is not: It’s not as revelatory as Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons’ 2010 debut that went double-platinum, won them six Grammy nominations and put British indie folk on the map. What Babel does do, though, is prove that this quartet is here to stay, consolidating their breakthrough with a sound uniquely their own and demonstrating that they may be ready to go even bigger places. Indeed, standouts like “Holland Road” and “Lover of the Light” swell from coffeehouse intimacy to arena grandeur. And they’ve mastered that soft-loud dynamic in a way much different from Nirvana and other bands that have come before them: with a banjo.

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