Written By Simon Chisholm
‘21st Century Breakdown’ is essentially a sequel to 2004’s ‘American Idiot’. It has the same rock operah approach. It is also similar in the overall sound and impact. The release is dark and jaded with an ‘all hope is lost’ kind of vibe. I guess when you break it all down, Green Day have composed a slew of songs with the theme of social commentary and protest.
Apparently the album takes a ‘The Who’ inspired approach to a concept album, following two characters through turmoil created by government and other socially influential characters. An overall analysis may come to that conclusion, but when you focus of individual tracks, you find a number of songs about characters struggling with themselves and the world, and helping each other through the turmoil. I find the idea of the concept exciting, but when I listen, I like to think of the songs as tales of woe and reflection aimed at the youth of today.
While not virtuosic, the band has created tracks consisting of simple layers of instrumentation with the vocal as the focal point. The instrumentation consists of hyperactive drums, violent bass, thrashing guitars and Billy Joe’s trademark ‘blocked nose’ vocal delivery. The overall sound of the songs is powerful with arrangements that are crafted to create a sense of movement and progress through the story.
The melodies are simple, but easy to sing along. It is the words, however, that are the important thing anyway, the message. The chorus hooks are catchy and will be stuck in your head for days.
Some of the tracks are tired, heard it before, forced to reach the three minute goal and a strain to listen for the duration. However, the standout tracks hold you for their duration. Songs that stand out? Try: ‘21st Century Breakdown’, ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘¡Viva La Gloria!’, ‘Last Night On Earth’, ‘East Jesus Nowhere’, ‘Peacemaker’, ‘Last Of The American Girls’, and ’21 Guns’.
While listening I envision Mike Dirnt snarling while attacking the string of his bass while Tré wears a goofy grin with arms flailing around like dancing snakes on ecstasy.
Green Day is:
Billy Joe Armstring – Vocals, guitar, piano
Mike Dirnt – Bass, vocals
Tre Cool – Drums, percussion
Released in 2009 by Reprise records. Produced by Butch Vig and Green Day.