It is a story fit for Behind the Music: band on the edge of self destruction ends up recording their most critically acclaimed album and second biggest selling album, a concept album of all things that some would argue (not me) is the soundtrack for the Bush era. So what do you do for a follow up if you are Green Day and it has been half a decade since you released American Idiot: how about another concept album?
And so we get the three act 21st Century Breakdown that follows the couple Christian and Gloria (as opposed to the singular protagonist of American Idiot, Jesus of Suburbia) through eighteen songs across seventy minute. The first act Heroes and Cons is the angsty portion of the album that opens with the ambitious title track with multiple tempo changes within its five minutes. That is followed by the paranoia driven first single Know Your Enemy which can easily be written off as this album’s American Idiot: a straight ahead rocker with not so thinly veiled potshots at their political foes.
The act does delve into some of the mellowest movements of the band’s career as we are introduced to Gloria in ¡Viva la Gloria! Before that song takes off then goes back down for the acoustic Before the Lobotomy before again revving up halfway through the song. Then comes Christian’s Inferno that sound as menacing as the title would suggest. The act ends with the mellow Last Night on Earth that unlike the previous songs in the act doesn’t get moving.
The second act Charlatans and Saints starts off with East Jesus Nowhere, a pure punk rocker that shouts along for four and a half minutes with machine gun guitar riffs that takes aims at religion that permeates the second act. That rocker continues with Peacemaker but with a south of the border tinge. They go full tilt western to start out ¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl) sounding like an old time drinking hole piano player.
The last act Horseshoes and Handgernades (as in the only two things where close counts) also is the name of the first song which may be the closest thing on the album that sounds like nineties Green Day with its snotty lyrics and fast guitars. 21 Guns could be this album’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams with its high highs and low lows that go back and forth during the song. Bucking the trend of the closer of the previous which close with songs that border on Air Supply type adult contemporary, the album ends with a bang worthy of the act title, that tells the ever after of Christian and Gloria.
All in all, if you liked the politics and rock theatrics of American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown will be right up your alley even if they just seem to be rehashing things five years later. Musically it seems like their detour with the garage rock of the Foxboro Hut Tubs as the genre creeps into many songs on the set. But if you started to get sick of American Idiot and the bands turn into Queen like stadium anthems, just stick with Dookie and pass on the album.
Song to Download – 21st Century Breakdown
21st Century Breakdown gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.