21st Century Breakdown: A Review.

First blog, yay. Please excuse my crappy writing skills.

As hard as it’s going to be, I’m going to do my best to put all bias aside when assessing this record. That being said, it’s one of the best I’ve heard in a very long time (maybe with the exception of London Calling). A lot of people have this idea of what kind of band Green Day is, or what they’re supposed to be. They either say that they’re a snotty, bratty, has-been pop-punk band. Or they say that Green Day was good, up until 5 years ago when they released American Idiot, and then had nothing but whiny songs that were slaughtered by top 40 radio. 21st Century Breakdown is neither of those descriptions. It may have come out two weeks ago but I honestly think one of the best ways to describe it is by saying it’s classic rock. It just has that feeling that you only get when listening to older records, but at the same time it shows a progression of modern rock. Green Day had the dedication to the record rarely seen in popular bands anymore. After the success they had from American Idiot they could have easily gotten away with putting out a hastily written a follow up and the public would have eaten it up. That alone made them want to set their sights even higher than they did on the last album. If they spent five years working on a new record, chances are it’s going to be good, at the very least you’ll know a lot of effort was put into its making. 21st Century Breakdown draws on influences ranging from The Who, to The Beatles, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, The Clash, and the classic Green Day sound. Some of the songs are layered, energetic anthems; on the other end of the spectrum it has piano-driven ballads that really don’t seem like they should be written by Green Day, but somehow they just work. Besides piano, string instruments are also used more on this record, creating a bigger, grander sound. On the first listen it might not seem that different from the last album, but if you look a little closer it’s far more musically diverse and is willing to push the envelope more than ever.

Lyrically, it may not seem much different from the previous album either, but the new record is definitely written more from a personal point of view. American Idiot was a concept record about alienation and coming of age in a post-9/11 America. 21st Century Breakdown could be considered a concept record, but it has no linear story. It’s more like a scrapbook of the past decade, when there seems like there’s a new crisis occurring constantly. It talks about feeling lost and trying to make sense of everything going on around you. A major theme of the record is recognizing and dealing with your inner demons and personal struggles, including drug addiction. It deals largely with the hypocrisy of organized religion, and a few of the songs are just pour-out-your-soul love songs. To tie it all together, it has two main characters: Gloria, representing idealism and standing up for one’s values, and Christian, the self-destructive nihilist who just wants to burn everything down. 21st Century Breakdown is an observation of the past decade without stating a lot of opinions; by the end of the record it offers a lot of hope and a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers. It’s rebellious and questions the status quo without being preachy. In simple terms, the 21st century so far can be summed up in three words: “panic and promise and prosperity”.

Overall, this album is Green Day's finest collections of songs to date. It displays a natural growth and maturity of their songwriting skills but shows that they still know how to have fun. I expect this record to have at least the same amount of success and impact that American Idiot had. 21st Century Breakdown is a rundown of the chaos of this decade, summed up in 70 minutes. Its message will most likely still be relevant for the next several years, and by then we may still be dealing with the wreckage. Even after the mess is cleaned up, this record will remain a sobering reminder of what it’s like to live in a turbulent world.
Posted on May 28th, 2009 at 11:23pm


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