Newest Review: ... Never have they shown that more than with their newest album, 21st Century Breakdown. They leave behind their days of grunge rock ... more
Anything Who can do...
21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Member Name: magenta23
21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Advantages: Truly a briillant album, a must hear
Disadvantages: Only time will tell if it can rival the success of A.I
Green Day.. a band that I 'discovered' at school when 'Basket Case' was the song of the Sixth Form. Back then they were all about loud anthemic punk songs about hating your parents, masterbation and practical jokes!
Nowadays their music maintains their unique sound but is all grown up, as is the subject matter. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Bassist Tre Cool and Drummer Mike Dirnt are still angry and protesting against the establishment, but this time it's not parents and teachers they're attacking but the government.
The highly political 'American Idiot', the band's 2004 epic rock opera, earned them two Grammys and countless other awards so the change in style obviously worked. American Idiot was an incredible album which as the name suggests, was a protest album against Bush's regime. They briefly reinevented themselves as the 'Foxboro Hot Tubs'in between time (one of the worst kept secrets in music) but now return five years on from 'American Idiot' as Green Day and presents us with another rock opera, '21st Century Breakdown'. 'American Idiot' was one of the most successful albums in recent years, loved by fans and critics alike. So can they do it again?
'21st Century Breakdown' pretty much takes up where 'American Idiot' left off. In an epic 71 mintues it tells us the story of two fictional characters, Gloria and Christian and how they battle through their lives in the 21st Century. Green Day continue with being angry.. this time it's a broader attack at modern life and the world today.
The album is hard to review song by song, so I'm not going to! You really do have to listen to this from beginning to end. It's not an album to put on random! Green Day tackle the genre of (punk) Rock Opera again, and this album is contructed as so, split into three acts, 'Heroes and Cons', 'Charlatans and Saints' and 'Horseshoes and Handgrenades'.
'Heroes and Cons' opens with Billie Joe Armstrong sings us an accapello introduction which is eerie and sweet at the same time. Then come in the guitars of the title track '21st Century Breakdown.' This is typical Green Day, fast anthemic and anti America. "Dream, Amercian Dream, I can't even sleep from the lights early dawn. Scream, Amercian Scream. Believe what you see from heroes and cons?"
The act moves seamlessly into the bands latest single 'Know your Enemy.' In my opinion this song isn't their finest hour, it's safe and dare, I say it a little dull. Having said that I think it's hard with an album with like this to pull a song out of it and expect it to make complete sense alone. I don't see it as a great singles album. It's strength only shows when you hear it in its entirety. On the basis of 'Know Your Enemy' I was in two minds whether to even purchase this album but my loyalty to Green Day won and I'm very glad I did, because I love it.
The first act continues, introducing our second character, Gloria and takes the listener on quite a musical journey. The beautiful 'Before the Lobotomy' is a highlight for me and I can already hear 100,000 people in a field singing 'Dreaming, I was only dreaming..' back at them. The act finishes with Green Day doing a ballad- and not badly either. 'Last Night on Earth' is successful for it's simplicity and doesn't cram as many words in as the average Green Day song. A sad, and gentle interlude before the foot stamping comes back in the Act II.
'Charlatans and Saints' opens with 'East Jesus Nowhere,' for me, the song on this album which is most 'American Idiot.' I wonder if the similar sound of '21st Century Breakdown' is a concious decision by the band to make the connection from one album to the other or whether they are just running out of ideas? 'Peacemaker', with another swipe at the war in Iraq, has a definate sound of The Clash about it and it my personal favourite track. 'Last of the American Girls' and 'Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)' are slightly poppier and more reminicent of earlier albums. These two songs are also highlights of this act. I've heard stories of 'American Idiot' being adapted for stage. If this was done with '21st Century Breakdown' I can see 'Viva La Gloria' raising the roof. 'Murder City' and 'Restless Heart Syndrome' are ok, but very samey. Typical Green Day Style but with out the wow factor of other parts of the album.
'Horseshoes and Handgrenades' opens with a track of the same name, a shouty, angry rant full of expletives. "I'm not f***ing around, I think I'm coming out, I'm a hater, a traitor.." Billie Joe chants in the opening to the final act, just in case we hadn't got the idea that he isn't happy about the state of things by now. Moving on to 'The Static Age', a brillant sing along track that really reminds me of Weezer and even The Beach Boys in parts, I know it's hard to imagine, but have a listen!
Act III features single '21 Guns,' a sentimental solid track which is a real stand out. Not quite 'Wake me up when September Ends' but it's good. 'American Eugoly' starts with another unaccompanied intro from Billie Joe, echoing the start of '21st Century Breakdown.' 'See the Light' is a memorable song to end on, dramatic and energetic with a chorus that is reminiscent of Kiss' 'Roll n Roll All Night'! Lyrically, the story is left open 'Where the ever after is in the hands of fate.' So what happens to Christian and Gloria? Does this means they'll be a rock opera number three?
I guess that will depend on the success of '21st Century Breakdown.' Personally I can't see it being anything but a hit, but I'm not sure it will rival the acclaim of 'American Idiot.' Reading a review in NME on this album raised a good point. Is this album a little out of date already, especially in America, with Obama lifting people's spirits and promoting an optimistic view? I guess it depends why people are buying it. If you are buying it for the politics, I think it fails. Out of date, maybe but I also don't think Green Day drive home their point as much in this album. 'American Idiot' was very clear in it's message. This maybe trying to tackle to many issues at once and ends up being a little clumsy in in it's delivery. If the public are buying it for the music alone then a success it will be. It's grown up Green Day in the main and not disimiliar to 'American Idiot' but there's no 'Jesus of Surburbia' or a 'Wake Me Up When September Ends' in there. Although it a great listen as I whole I don't think it has those stand out parts that it needs. Maybe it just needs a few more listens. Strangely, I didn't like 'American Idiot' on the first few listens and look what happened with that....
P.S In addition to the musical content, you must by this for a brilliant Banksy-esque cover. I love it whwn a good album isn't let down by its artwork.
A few days and many listens later, this does get better and better the more you listen to it. There's so much going on in this album I think it takes a while 'hear' it all if you like. I still maintain that it's not as strong as 'American Idiot' but this is far better than many other bands which I rate highly could ever achieve and for that reason I can give it nothing less than 5 stars.
Summary: One of the best albums of the year. Buy this!