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
No American Idiot...
21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Member Name: obscuredbykep
21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Advantages: Finally a follow up to American Idiot, and some great songs
Disadvantages: Very mixed, I think 4 stars was too generous?
You know what they say about buses? Wait for one and four come along at once. While I always knew that the same saying applied to women, I never realised that it was the same with albums too. For, while spending ages listening to older albums, even if it is of bands I have only recently began listening too, I suddenly discovered that in the space of a month, many bands which I really liked had released a new album, Maximo Park, The Horrors, The Rakes, The Decemberists and, of course, Green Day.
I had first started listening to Green Day around the time of "American Idiot", their last studio album, being released, and after that listened back to some of their older songs, becoming in an instantaneous fan. So, it was with some joy, that I saw they had a new album out, and heard samples of it on the TV ads, including their new song, "Know your Enemy".
So, it was added to the list of albums that I needed to get. And get it I did...
== Ze Album ==
'''Song of the Century'''
We tune in to this album, with the sounds of a radio being.. erm, tuned in. And a little acapella piece from Billie Joe, this minute long introduction to the album is actually pretty pointless, but doesn't sound shite, so no complaints. It's a nice little poem really.
'''21st Century Breakdown'''
Strum the guitar, add some reverb. Something possibly sounding like a piano. Add a steady drumbeat rising in volume, and a strange reverby sound, and finally burst everything together. The song kicks in, its an average mash of guitars and drums, it sounds great. The chorus has a sweet repeating tune to it, and it suddenly feels like Green Day were never away. If you want to start an album off well, then take tips from a song like this. Midway there is a little breakdown piece, the guitar sounding slightly Scottish... it then continues to this folly jig, and we have a very catchy tune. Then, right near the end, a little mini-solo, which sounds like it could be epic if played a little higher, and longer.
'''Know your Enemy'''
_Their first single from the album..._
The drums open this song and a guitar faintly enters from behind. Then the song throws itself in, which a typical Green Day sound. The guitar is hard to describe, it has a like duh-duh-duhhh-gap-duh-duh-duhhh-gap. Which is then sped up for the chorusy parts. It is definitely a great sound anyway. There is a nice little solo piece, which, again isn't groundbreaking, but has a really fresh feel to it. It is a perfect single, possessing all that is needed for mass-popularity. That being said, like many singles, it certainly isn't the highlight of the album.
'''¡Viva la Gloria!'''
A sweet piano tune plays, and Billie Joe gently sings over the top. Violins come in, and the song possesses a sweet classical feel, and then you think it is going to change, a small gap in the music, but no it comes back in piano again, but only for a second. Clash-clash-clash of the cymbals and it is like the song is reborn. The guitars heavy and fast flowing, the drums performing perfectly, the song has a true Californian punk feel to it, and the bass line, detectable underneath is sweet and pounding. There are echoes in the lyrics, slides on the guitar, this is a real Green Day track, and is one of the highlights on the album. It has a real longevity to it, sounds like it could have been done years ago, on one of their earlier albums, but also sounds completely fresh, as though it was played only yesterday.
'''Before the Lobotomy'''
Slow plucked guitars, and a gentle echo on his words, Billie Joe opens up softly, and it has a dream like feel to it. A gentle glimmer of feedback to the right suggests that maybe, there is something coming, some bang of the guitars, or crash of the drums... Then voila, it arrives. Again, a real fresh feeling punk sound in the guitars, and well paced drumming. It all fits together with perfect precision, gaps in the music with just a twang of the guitars. It is another credit to the album.
A completely different drum beat opens this song, it has a grind to it, and the guitars sound extra overdriven, but distant in the background, the song then changes of course, and enters into Green Day mode for the chorus, and alternates through the verses and chorus' with the two sounds. The change is smooth, and the chorus keeps the basic sound of the guitar underneath which is good. Despite the half decent music behind it, it is, a bit samey. There isn't really anything special here, nothing is making this song jump out and impressing me, it just exsists, fluttering away into the background.
'''Last Night on Earth'''
Again we open with a slow piece of piano, but this time there is a slow drum beat as an accompaniment. It has a really slow drud to it, and the music, as the guitar is placed in the background retains a tempo consistent with something which would be adequate for some soppy love ballad. Ah, hang on...
_ "My beating heart belongs to you_
_I walked for miles till I found you_
_I'm here to honour you_
_If I lose everything in the fire_
_Did I ever make it through?" _
It _is_ a love song. That makes sense then. Again, it isn't really hitting me anywhere special. It doesn't feel like something that would stick in my mind, and, as far as romantic lyrics go, they don't hold the candle to anything either. An average, at best, song here.
'''East Jesus Nowhere'''
Again there is the tuning sounds of radio or an old TV or something, then a neat, clean sounding series of guitar chords, which sounds fresh and as the more overdriven guitar comes in, and the real Green Day sound kicks in, the song sounds instantly better. It has a nice throbbing too the guitars and the drums assist perfectly, they have their shouting echoes and a nice bass line behind it all. The singing fits in nicely too, adding another dimension, in both tone and lyric wise. After the lower quality of the last two tracks, we are getting better again now, and this, while unlikely to ever be considered a great track, certainly contains the elements required to make something decent.
"1,2,3,4" Billie Joe whispers, and in comes a Spanish sounding flicker on the guitar, which as the drums roll in, and the bass line enters too, sounds awesome. It has a pretty Mediterranean feel (yeah, I know, my geography is terrible..). The chorus possesses a catchy beat too, and it is sang perfectly. It is definitely a highlight on the album, and also has a decent guitar solo bit, which rather than just there to be able to say "yeah, we have guitar solos", actually contributes to the feel of the song, and is followed by a slight change in the music as a strings arrangement is brought in, topping of the spanitteranian feel.
'''Last of the American Girls'''
Lead by a bass line, it thuds deep, with a light drum beat over the top. The main bulk of the song keeps a light tone, and the chorus has a gentle bit of guitar laid over it, which has a nice tune to it, but is not anything spectacular. I am now getting the impression that this is a very mixed album, alternating between decent and average songs. This is the latter. It just doesn't offer anything that really excites me.
Coming in with some beeps which faded out from the previous track, the drum beat rolls in, gaining tempo, until the bass and guitar hop aboard. It is immediately fast paced punk, and it sounds great. The verse guitar keeps a quick pace, even though the singing is slow in comparison, it works really well, and the chorus sounds great, which the refrain of "desperate, but not hopeless", which I think is quite a nice line. There is then a solo, which, isn't just for show, it sounds great, it keeps the feel of the song rocking, and I cannot fault it. Whilst possessing such a pace, it retains a melancholy feel, and I really like that about the song, it's only problem, is that at just under 3 minutes, it's a bit too short, and I would happily listen to another verse or two raising it to around 5 minutes...
_"Christian's crying _
_In the bathroom _
_And I just want to _
_Bum a cigarette _
_We've come so far _
_We've been so wasted _
_It's written all over our faces" _
I particularly like that last verse, it kind of describes the average weekend for me really, well, I don't know anyone called Christian, but anyway. It's the perfect reflection of what I am sure is the average Friday night for a lot of people of this generation.
'''¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)'''
Like it's older brother, the track with a similar name earlier on in the album, we start of with a nice piano piece, but this has an extension, with a plonky jive to it before kicking into the main part of the song. Had they chosen to, I think they could have made an ace song with just that piece. The song keeps the same chords but onto guitar, the same pace proceeds and we have another great song on our hands. It works really well, and has a menacing feel to it, and the solo again feels like it has a purpose.
'''Restless Heart Syndrome'''
Admittedly, the sight novelty of introducing all this piano into the album is beginning to get a little bit tiring. It started being all dramatic and adding a new sound to the music, but now... anyway, this song opens up with a sprinkle of notes from the old pianee, it then catches a slow drum beat keeping a song with a slower tempo to most. As the piano gradually drifts off into the abyss, the song instantly improves, and doesn't sound quite so dire. A splash of strings is here and there, which does add something. Mid way, there is this awesome breakdown. It sounds like a barrage of sound in some formulated way, mainly owing to the guitars with some cool feedback sound, which, as with most songs that ever feature something cool like that, doesn't last long enough.
So, while all in all, it isn't a bad song, the biggest flaw with it I have found is that the lyrics are not delivered very well. Having a quick read up on them, they make an excellent poem (at least in my view).
_ "It's like an ulcer bleeding in my brain_
_Send me to the pharmacy_
_So i can lose my memory_
_Lord knows i tried to find a way to run away"_
OK, so not quite in the realms of Owen, Auden or Shelley, nor is it even prize winning material, but it is pretty decent, but sang in such a way that it loses the meaning that it could package, and I didn't really get the point of the song, yet reading through, with my own tune forming in my mind, it strengthens them so much.
'''Horseshoes and Hand Grenades '''
Enter another mediocre song, which I cannot get excited over. Sure, it opens with a great series of chords, it packs power behind it, the lyrics are sang angrily, and the drums clatter and bang with a near constant ting of the cymbals, but, well, "been there, heard that". It even has a scream or something (sounds possibly like a chicken being strangled) in the middle of it, but that just sounds silly, maybe a proper little death metal scream would have worked... Billie Joe keeps singing "I'm not fucking around", and unfortunately, he's not making a decent song either... and it ends, with as ridiculous a little scream as before, though this time, I think he was trying to sing some words at the same time.
'''The Static Age'''
Now, this may be lazy of me, but scroll back up, read "Horseshoes and Hand Grenades" again, but ignore the screaming references. Song reviewed.
Ever so quietly, there is some strings, a double bass maybe, and the lower notes of a violin, barely audible, then an acoustic guitar enters with some clean chords, and Billie Joe's vocals. When the bass and drums enter, the song gains a real depth to it, and we have a good song again. It has a range of music, the chorus obviously raising the tempo, getting some power chords in and whatnot, and the verse keeping simple, with a piano in the back, it has this beauty to it kind of, however I am a bit in mixed minds about the way he sings the words "21 guns". He keeps singing a little bit too high, like he caught his bollocks on the guitar amp at the same point each chorus, sounds a bit unnatural really. The solo piece works nicely, it floats gently atop of the chords other pieces, folding down into another little rendition of those opening strings and sliding into that really soft acoustic bit again, which should have been where they left it, and not bothered going into repeating the chorus a couple more times, and ending on a fadeout chord...
'''American Eulogy (Mass Hysteria/Modern World)'''
Remember that opening track, which was just the faint murmurs of Billie Joe? Well it comes back again, before knocking into the real song. This has a real solid punk feel behind it, light and not overbearing guitars, form the verse, and every time he sings "Mass Hysteria" there is a little riff which sounds odd, but quite good.
Then there is a little breakdown, the guitar is plucked and the induvidul strings can be heard... momentarily. Shame it doesn't continue on a bit more like that, since it was good, but is soon changed, a little solo piece in the same pitch as the weird riff.
Then into the Modern World section of the song. This is better, even more punky, well at least in the first verse of it anyway, where the lyrics are sang with more punk attitude to them. A chorus piece, then another little solo bit, there for nothing but display I guess, it certainly isn't anything interesting. Another verse, which this time features some strange feedback, which doesn't sound like it should be there, maybe they just fancied playing around, well, it didn't work.
'''See the Light'''
Some chords are struck, and there is a rising guitar sound coming in from the back, which finally plucks the courage to dominate as the drums kick in. Musically, there is a good mix, with a nice riff draping itself over the chords, it does sound rather pleasing. But that is about the extent. I don't know, but it seems like ending on a high isn't what they wanted to do, or at least, if they did, they failed epically. There isn't really anything new here, nothing fresh tasting and juicy, it's sounds like a regurgitation of there other tracks.
== Summing Up ==
I obviously didn't expect another "American Idiot", and well, if it was like that, it would have just been repetitive and so wouldn't have faired well anyway. I suppose, really, I wasn't wholly sure what to expect, but after the disappointment suffered from The Decemberist's latest, I was hoping for something that wasn't going to cause me to crawl into a whole, clutching my precious CD collection refusing to ever buy anything new again.
I am really stuck on rating this overall. I suppose a 3 would be what it needs, but the good tracks are genuinely great, they offer something new, and refreshing. There is splashes of great lyrics and great, modern punk sounds. There are tracks that I will definitely listen to over and over again in the future, songs that I would recommend to my friends, and really, these are the songs that I will associate the album with, causing me to give it a 4 star rating.
The poor songs aren't diabolical, it's not like I was listening to them wishing them to end, I just wasn't enjoying them like I should have been, the consistency of quality just isn't here, it is a mixed album for sure.
One thing I really did not like, was their strange openings to songs. There was the odd few, which has what seemed like a pointless intro to them, the strings on '21 Guns', could be removed, open straight off with the chords from the guitar, the poem on 'American Eulogy' get rid of it, open instead with the immediate cry of "HYSTERIA". It seems like they wanted to add a little class to the album, make it seemed a little more refined, but instead they just added something pointless. Like drinking tea through a straw, it may seem like a good idea, but really, it gets in the way, and can reduce the enjoyment (oh and it burns your tongue, the tea that is, a song cannot literally burn...).
I am now feeling disappointed with the album, I hadn't until this very moment. I'm not disappointed because it isn't as good as I had perhaps hoped, but because of the overall presentation, and the potential. At 18 tracks, I think they could have perhaps trimmed some of the fat off, cutting it down to the usual 10-14 tracks long, and I am sure that then it would taste sweeter. I also think that had they perhaps spent an extra week in the studio, listened to a couple of the songs over a few times, they might have noticed little ways to improve it (the intro removal thingy for one) and other tweaks.
I am going to go as far as to say that I '''do''' recommend the album. It is worth the £8.95 you can get it for on www.play.com, although, I wouldn't say it needs to be something you rush out and get tomorrow. Your life could wait maybe, for a year or so, when the price has gone down a few extra pounds.
== Suck it and See ==
'''Know your Enemy''' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIJgSEiAJ5A
'''¡Viva la Gloria! '''- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG_jYaIBXFw
'''21 Guns '''- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p4YoWnoVIg
Summary: Finally a follow up to American Idiot, and some great songs