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Green Day: ¡Cuatro!

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres

Posted to Artist Spotlight on October 3, 2013

It looks, early on, like a Beach Boys documentary, with the surf, the surfer, and the talk about a band needing to take some time off.

But the surfer is Billie Joe Armstrong, and the band, of course, is Green Day, who probably could sound like Brian Wilson and company if it wanted to.

¡Cuatro! reveals the East Bay band as thoughtful and thought-out, from their perspectives on being in the music industry to the way they break down the elements of songs they’re working on, and, later, sequence them for CD’s or setlists.

After taking a little time off early in 2012, they returned to a more stripped down style—their original sound—and poured themselves into practice sessions before hitting the recording studios.

The result? A tall stack of new music – enough, in fact, for three new albums that would be issued, two months apart, beginning in September, 2012. Each would feature one band member on the cover, and the titles would be “¡Uno!” (Billie), “¡Dos!” (Mike Dirnst) and “¡Tre!” (who else but Tre Cool?). Despite a setback—Armstrong went into rehab for substance abuse—the albums came out, and so has this totally entertaining documentary.

Through it, fans learn that Green Day employed some unique strategies to stay fresh, like traveling to different towns—from their hometown, Oakland, to L.A. and Austin, where they collected some fun footage, both on and off stage, including a variation on breaking up a hotel room and a fantasy sequence about a teenager trying to buy cigarettes.

In the studios, multiple cameras give their practice sessions more interest than typical shots of bands in funky spaces. Here, those spaces include small clubs that the band decides, sometimes on a whim, to play.

Songs are interspersed with documentary footage of the band variously goofing off, kidding around, and pondering the risks of playing all new songs for their fans. After all, they’ve compiled three albums of “all new shit.” They worry, too, about revealing too much of themselves in this documentary.

No problem. The fans were rabid over the new stuff. And this film, like so many of Green Day’s songs, is short, punchy, trenchant, well observed and more musical than some critics might expect.

The band members are grateful for their fans’ staunch support through a concert of “all new shit.” As one of them puts it: “It makes you kind of freak out when people don’t freak out.”

Even if you weren’t reading Rolling Stone magazine in the late '60s /early '70s, you might still know who Ben Fong-Torres is from the movie “Almost Famous.” Ben Fong-Torres is the legendary Rolling Stone Senior Editor who was characterized in the Cameron Crowe movie and now,… More