CD Review: Green Day “21st Century Breakdown”

gdayI’ve never disliked Green Day, but I can’t say that I’ve been an avid fan, especially after the lackluster follow-ups to 1994’s smash hit “Dookie”. That began to change in 2004 with the release of their excellent “comeback” concept album “American Idiot”. Now, 5 years later, “21st Century Breakdown” makes me want to buy a Green Day T-shirt to wear with pride.

“American Idiot” was a huge success at the critic and commercial level – these kinds of records, appearing after a decade of being together, create a fear in the fanbase that the last hurrah has been achieved…how in the world are they going to possibly top “American Idiot”? I must admit I had the same concern myself. With each passing year of nothing new from Billie Joe and the gang, I grew closer to writing off “American Idiot” as a fluke and concluding that the band had nothing more to say.

This could not have been more wrong. “21st Century Breakdown” is stupendous. I know it disturbs many of the old school Green Day fans, but the band’s new musical direction (a logical extension of where they were headed with “American Idiot”) takes their game to the next level. I believe this record will cement Green Day as a force to be reckoned with in the rock world.

Not only is the music on “21st Century Breakdown” some of the most accessible and melodic of their career, but the layers of lyrical depth have me believing that Green Day could be this generation’s U2. The record is another concept album of sorts, tracing the history of a young couple (Christian and Gloria) through the first decade of the new millennium.

Produced by Butch Vig along with the band, and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, “21st Century Breakdown” is a sonic masterpiece. The band continues to experiment by adding piano and strings to their crunchy and punchy guitars, and their harmony vocals have never been more abundant and effective. There are almost too many good songs to pick favorites, but I’ll go with “Viva La Gloria”, “21 Guns”, “Before the Lobotomy”, and the title track. “Before the Lobotomy” is particularly cool because it starts out as an acoustic ballad that is ‘covered’ by the more traditional sounding Green Day towards the end of the song.

Absolutely terrific record. Don’t let the current single “Know Your Enemy” fool you – it is one of the more simplistic and banal tracks. I am puzzled why it was selected as a single when so many of the other songs are far superior.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18

Green Day on MySpace. Official site.

Buy it!