Green Day exploded onto mainstream radio back in 1994 with their album Dookie, which offered such punk inspired classics like “Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” and “Basket Case.” The album went on to sell multi-million copies around the world, and Green Day did so with a rather simple yet ingenious formula. Write fun lyrics layered with pop-punk hooks and mime the British accent and attitude found on favorite Clash and Sex Pistols albums.
15 years later, Green Day demonstrates on their newest effort, 21st Century Breakdown, that the band has no interest in taking cues from well worn musical sheets. At least, Billy Joe, the lead singer of the group, doesn’t. He reportedly composed every line and note found on the band’s 2009 release. 21st Century Breakdown takes up where American Idiot (2004) left off by constructing a full fledged concept album both lyrically and musically.
21st Century Breakdown follows two youths, Gloria and Christian, through a financially broken and collectively dispirited America. With lines such as “My Generation is zero / I never made it / As a working class hero” (from title track) and “Put your faith in a miracle / And it’s non-denominational / Join the choir we will be singing / In the Church of Wishful Thinking” (from track “East Jesus Nowhere”) it is evident to listeners that this is a desperate and cynical America. Clearly, the album is submerged within the economic and political strife of a country still licking its wounds from the Bush administration. The concept of the album is fully released and, in most cases, written effectively. Time will tell, however, if its thesis will be eternally accessible or just a time capsule of this point in history.
The lyrics aren’t the only thing fleshed out on 21st Century Breakdown. The musical score
matches and even enhances the message of the lyrics. While Dookie was content on getting heavy radio play rotation with clean, simple guitar riffs, 21st Century Breakdown’s music is multi-layered and deviates far from the territory the band was comfortable roaming prior to American Idiot. Every single song on the newest album sounds born from the Rock Anthem animal. Billy Joe often sounds like he is singing to the tradition of Queen and Meat Loaf rather than Bad Religion or Violent Femmes. Said departure in style may sour segments of long time Green Day fanatics, but most fans will continue to appreciate the band’s ability to publish well crafted material.
Overall, this reviewer gives the album an 8 out of 10 (10 being the highest mark and 1 being the poorest).