AbsolutePunk.net
   Username
Password
 
Album Review
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown Album Cover

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown

Reviewed by
9.1
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown
Record Label: Reprise
Release Date: May 15, 2009
The evolution of musical artists is an enigma in itself. While it can often polarize the fan of a beloved artist, it is absolutely fundamental for an artist to be able to grow, particularly as they become older and their longevity hinders on their next move. Surely it doesn't always work, and many times, bands fail to ignite a fire with a large audience and are forced to step back creatively in order to earn their fans' ears back. The approach is an anomaly since selfish listeners can't budge and try out a drastic (or not so drastic) change, simply based on the band members' decision to explore new depths of sound.

In 2004, Green Day did precisely what they had to do in order to maintain relevancy. There was no other choice after the mild success of 2000's Warning, arguably their most inventive and shape-shifting album left the band in a questionable state. Following the lead of The Who down to almost a 'T', the band wrote a massive punk rock opera that followed the vaguely metaphorical tale of a youth living two different lives in a troubled modern era. The success paved the way for Green Day to distance themselves from their bratty punk rock past and move towards crafting ambitious efforts that rang of fierce, unsavory lashings at politics and religion, all while weaving a yarn that while still punk rock in all its context, allowed the band to develop a gratuitous sense of self while expanding their trademarked brand of punk rock.

For their eighth studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, the band recruited Butch Vig (Garbage, Nirvana) to help them lead the way towards trumping their cornerstone record. The title alone suggests an abundantly clear expansion of where we left off on American Idiot, albeit this time around, there's less outright punk rock and a far greater lean on well-built, muscular pop rock that is split into three acts in operatic form, all interweaving a tale of two lovers caught in an apocalyptic age of chaos and beauty. This is no longer a world where Green Day can make Dookie; the band set the bar high for not only themselves, but for other rock acts to follow -- and with nowhere to go but up, the band has created a lavishly told story of Christian and Gloria, two idealistic but weary & rather naive individuals fighting for a world they believe in but have difficulty trusting. In 18 tracks, the album is nearly 70 minutes long -- normally, this would ask a great deal from the listener, as sitting through an album over one hour long can be an arduous task in itself. Yet Billie Joe Armstrong and company have provided an engrossing narrative that flows through it's three acts jubilantly, asking more from the audience rather than to simply have a good time. The band has put together 18 tracks that reference each other, the band's past albums and many of their own influences (a trait for which Billie Joe Armstrong is notorious). Reading as a nostalgic, self-reflecting story of love & war, fire & vengeance and (ultimately) submission & pride, 21st Century is hardly your average mainstream rock album. Perhaps that is the challenge for Green Day here, as they prepare to submit an album that is no longer constructed solely on power chords and sardonic hooks about masturbation, smoking pot and having some drinks.

After the introductory song plays through radio static (don't worry, it will come up later again -- it's important to the storyline), a clean piano note chimes in before Tre Cool's effortlessly-paced drum work storms the gates. The title track alone bursts forth with resilient aplomb, saluting the band's musical influences & heroes, as well as significant events that shaped the current state of mind that has been the band's focus. "Born into Nixon / And raised in hell," Armstrong cries out. "Last one born / but first one to run," a lien that alludes to Bruce Springsteen and also hints at the storyline that will be tackled in both American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. The song swiftly changes course into a Dropkick Murphys-like jig-flavored party before ending on a "Bohemian Rhapsody" finale. The first single, "Know Your Enemy" may come off as rather generic, however in context of the album, it sounds better than just a basic radio hit. Despite the next two tracks starting out as slow and overproduced interludes (that acoustic guitar sounds like Firehouse, no?), they eventually soar into sweeping, epic choruses that discuss the rise and fall of Gloria, an angel with a devil on her shoulder (see if you can catch the "Basket Case" reference in "Before the Lobotomy"). The lovelorn ballad, "Last Night on Earth," is delicately vast and shows a gentle side to what the next act slices up. While it comes off as the kind of song John Lennon would have penned for the Beatles' Let it Be, it could potentially become this disc's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (which means get your fill of it now before radio kills it).

The references that continue to come (which include the melodic harmonies and even some of the song structures themselves) are welcomed as they tie in with the overall theme. With that said, however, it might be the album's only stopgap. It will take more than a couple listens and will also require some lyrical studying to understand that the band is doing everything intentionally. That means every word repeated is significant to the story, and similarities to past Green Day tracks are meant to be self-referencing allusions to Christian & Gloria looking back at a world that has become nothing but a fight between all civilization. Act II is a bombastic, angry middle half, filled with lyrics that mention fire, vendettas and could be seen as an allegory for the fall of Rome ("For I am Caesar / I'm going to seize the day"). "Christian's Inferno" rings like a fuzzy-tuned industrial cut, "East Jesus Nowhere" (which takes it's name from a line in Juno) gets bigger after each verse, with it's lyrics mocking Christian extremists in a similar way Armstrong chastised politics on Idiot ("Your confession will be crucified ... Join the choir, we will be singing / In the church of wishful thinking") and "Murder City," while sounding a bit like the b-side "Too Much Too Soon," is a dark, blistering anthem that reiterates Christian's passionate rage.

By the final act, dealing with the conclusion that harks back to the two previous acts, it's obvious Green Day has created an album that while almost nearly a copy of American Idiot is more clever than it appears to be. "Horseshoes and Handgrenades" is like the Hives on overdrive and "American Eulogy" is the mini version of "Jesus of Suburbia," going back to Nimrod-era Green Day (that redundancy is pure 90's, baby). "21 Guns" is arguably the album's highlight, presenting an anti-war ballad that is both monumentally enduring and also sophisticated protest. Armstrong's vocals are less strained than they were at times on Idiot, sounding less like a vocalist and more like a performance artist; it is as if he is shouting these yarns into a crowd from a Broadway stage. Every member does their part to piece the album together, successfully proving that the band can offer up a strenuous peak to climb, yet pass it without losing a breath.

Certainly the band's most ambitious output, it is also their most polarizing for fans unwilling to give change and evolution a shot. While it may seem a tad self-indulgent, this is merely a huge rock band doing huge rock band things, refusing to become thick-minded clones of their former selves. Several listens open up a world of curiosity, in hopes you will be able to pick up each clue that lays hidden in the epic song structures, telling a complex story that plays like a spin-off. Exuberant and demanding, 21st Century Breakdown destructs the modern world in hopes of a bright future, something that is sure to be of interest in the next entry to Green Day's catalog. The smartest mainstream rock band out there, Green Day have gone the way of The Who, but it will be every other band that becomes green with envy.

Recommended if You LikeGreen Day's American Idiot; The Who's Quadrophenia; Queen's A Night at the Opera; My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade; The Kinks' Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
Choice Cuts"21 Guns," "Before the Lobotomy," "21st Century Breakdown," "American Eulogy" and "Horseshoes and Handgrenades"


Tracklisting1. Song of the Century

Act I: Heroes and Cons
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. íViva La Gloria!
5. Before the Lobotomy
6. Christian's Inferno
7. Last Night on Earth

Act II: Charlatans and Saints
8. East Jesus Nowhere
9. Peacemaker
10. Last of the American Girls
11. Murder City
12. ┐Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)
13. Restless Heart Syndrome

Act III: Horseshoes and Handgrenades
14. Horseshoes and Handgrenades
15. The Static Age
16. 21 Guns
17. American Eulogy (I. Mass Hysteria / II. Modern World)
18. See the Light
Band MembersBillie Joe Armstrong: lead vocals / guitar / piano
Mike Dirnt: bass / backing vocals / co-lead vocals on "Modern World"
Tre Cool: drums / percussion / backing vocals


Online VitalsOfficial Site | Official Myspace
PurchaseAmazon MP3
This review is a user submitted review from Chris Fallon. You can see all of Chris Fallon's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 251
02:50 AM on 05/14/09
#2
Chris Fallon
Boom.
Offline
User Info.
Chris Fallon's Avatar
Yes, this is quite long. Yes, I gave this a score many of you will find appalling. Yes, I am a longtime fan of the band. Yes, I think this is a band still at their peak doing exactly what no other mainstream modern rock band is or is even capable of doing.

I've given this a whole lot of thought, and this has been my most challenging review to write (hence the length). But I am satisfied with the end results and I hope you all will take my words to heart and see this album as I have grown to see it.
03:05 AM on 05/14/09
#3
WhoSaidThat?
twitter.com/TiredOfSeth
Offline
User Info.
WhoSaidThat?'s Avatar
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME review, Chris. This album honestly had to grow on me for a while, but 21CB just might hang with GD's best over time. Riveting read.
03:09 AM on 05/14/09
#4
Paulb-182
opentofire.bandcamp.com
Offline
User Info.
Paulb-182's Avatar
Great review chris!! really good.

Im gonna go out and buy this tomorrow

I mean I have literally no problem with American Idiot.. I just grew to really dislike the band as people during that time.. hopefully they wont annoy me as much this time
03:15 AM on 05/14/09
#5
Gumbyjag
Everything Evil
Offline
User Info.
Gumbyjag's Avatar
stoked. great review.
03:15 AM on 05/14/09
#6
deanster321
BLEGH
Offline
User Info.
deanster321's Avatar
It's not my favourite album of theirs but I enjoy it a hell of a lot. Excellent review too.

Quote:
Perhaps that is the challenge for Green Day here, as they prepare to submit an album that is no longer constructed solely on power chords and sardonic hooks about masturbation, smoking pot and having some drinks.
I liked this part especially, haha. Their moving on from that is something I've been considering for a long time as well when it comes to Green Day.
03:24 AM on 05/14/09
#7
EchoPark
promesas son sombras
Offline
User Info.
EchoPark's Avatar
another excellent review Chris.

This album has won me back after the disaster of American Idiot

A band I grew up with are a band I can now grow old with. Kudos to Billie Joe and Co. for making a great album
03:30 AM on 05/14/09
#8
Ryzenfall
makin' good time
Offline
User Info.
Ryzenfall's Avatar
Great review. Hopefully this will be more appealing to me, since I honestly couldn't stand American Idiot. We'll have to see.
03:31 AM on 05/14/09
#9
deanster321
BLEGH
Offline
User Info.
deanster321's Avatar
another excellent review Chris.

This album has won me back after the disaster of American Idiot

A band I grew up with are a band I can now grow old with.
Kudos to Billie Joe and Co. for making a great album
Perfectly put.
03:46 AM on 05/14/09
hockeyguitar99
Prison Strength
Offline
User Info.
hockeyguitar99's Avatar
I still have to listen to this. Good review Chris.
03:50 AM on 05/14/09
awakeohsleeper
We never met, you and I
Offline
User Info.
awakeohsleeper's Avatar
Yes, this is quite long. Yes, I gave this a score many of you will find appalling. Yes, I am a longtime fan of the band. Yes, I think this is a band still at their peak doing exactly what no other mainstream modern rock band is or is even capable of doing.

I've given this a whole lot of thought, and this has been my most challenging review to write (hence the length). But I am satisfied with the end results and I hope you all will take my words to heart and see this album as I have grown to see it.

It's fascinating that you have to justify yourself. I guess that's ap.net for you - the review never does the talking. It's a solid review. Your thoughts are intriguing. I've never liked Green Day so I won't like this record, but yes... decent review.
04:04 AM on 05/14/09
Slovo
NO YELLING ON THE BUS!!!
Offline
User Info.
Slovo's Avatar
04:18 AM on 05/14/09
SanePsychotic
Queerkegaard
Offline
User Info.
SanePsychotic's Avatar
This is probably one of the best reviews you've written Chris. Great job! As a passionate Green Day fan I'm really looking forward to getting the record tomorrow. From your review I gather that I'll enjoy it very much.
04:18 AM on 05/14/09
rorytws
Registered User
Offline
User Info.
rorytws's Avatar
I think this is the best review I've ever read on this site. Not a fan of the single, but this might persuade me to pick it up.
04:23 AM on 05/14/09
Piss
Oh Noes!
Offline
User Info.
Piss's Avatar
is it just me or is the album cover a ripoff of a MCR album?

NEWS, MUSIC & MORE
Search News
Release Dates
Exclusives
Best New Music
Articles
CONNECT
Submit News
Forums
Contests
Mobile Version
AP.net Logos
HIDDEN TREASURES
AbsolutePunk Podcast
Free Music
Sports Forum
Technology Forum
Recommendations
INFORMATION
Advertising
Contact Us
Copyright Policy
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
FOLLOW
Twitter | Facebook | RSS
PropertyOfZack
UnderTheGun
Purevolume
Chorus.fm | @jason_tate