Review Summary: An album with plenty of flaws, but ultimately one that delivers.
Every so often, an album comes along that hugely splits opinion, appearing constantly on both "best" and "worst" lists and sparking constant debate. The 2000's have spawned plenty of albums like this, and arguably the most well known of these is Green Day's political semi-concept, American Idiot
, released in 2004. This album marked a huge change in the direction of the bands music, with a far more ambitious and epic feel than any of the bands previous releases. Despite its success, however, American Idiot immediately presented Green Day with a problem; how to follow it up. Should they have continued their progression and written another "rock opera," entirely alienating many of their older fans, or return to their signature pop-punk sound, pleasing these fans while potentially upsetting their more mainstream audience? With the long awaited 21st Century Breakdown
, they have attempted to please both halves of their fan base, by essentially trying both options.
Even before you hear the music, there is so much to potentially hate about the album. Its presentation, as three different "Acts" is totally over the top and self indulgent, the albums concept and lyrics are horribly clichéd, and the lack of musical progression will be seen by many as a weakness. Some may even argue that the album already feels dated, with the negative political themes seeming rather out of place in America's current wave of post-Bush optimism. However, there was also plenty to hate about American Idiot
, but that album has gone on to sell twelve million copies to date. Granted, many did hate that album, but there were also some (myself included) who loved the new direction the band had taken, and still regard it as their strongest release.
The albums main drawback is its length. It contains eighteen songs, which stretch out over seventy minutes. This means that it can become boring in places, and can be difficult to listen to in its entirety as a result. As mentioned, the albums presentation, as three "Acts;" Heroes And Cons
, Charlatans And Saints
and Horseshoes And Handgrenandes
seems totally unnecessary, especially as these sections have very little difference musically. The concept of the album is vague and hard to follow, and isn't helped by lyrics such as "You're a sacrificial suicide, Like a dog that's been sodomized,"
which are hard to ignore throughout.
So how, with all of these problems does 21st Century Breakdown
merit a 3.5 rating? The answer is simple; there isn't a bad song on it. In fact, every song individually is thoroughly enjoyable, the problem is that you may lose interest in places due to the albums bloated state. The way that the album is presented bears closest resemblence to American Idiot
, and some songs here would have fitted well into that album. Musically, though most of the songs here sound more like the ultra-accessible pop-punk from Nimrod
. In general, these throwback moments work well, and provide many of the albums highlights.
It begins, however, very much in American Idiot
territory, with the title track following a short introduction. This is actually one of the albums slower songs, along the same lines as Wake Me Up When September Ends
, but works reasonably well as an opener. Know Your Enemy
, which follows sounds very like one of the more upbeat moments from the previous album. It was an underwhelming lead single, but fortunately works far better in the context of the album. After that though, the majority of the songs sound like the band before reinvention. !Viva La Gloria!
bursts into the bands distinctive loose, punky flow after a more considered opening, and the skuzzy Christians Inferno
proves an early highlight, and is probably the best song of an impressive opening act.
Act II unfortunately isn't as good, but is nevertheless a solid collection of standard Green Day songs. Had they done the sensible thing, and cut a number of songs from the final release, you feel that the majority of this section would be emitted, as much of it simply isn't as interesting or lively as the rest of the material. Act III, however, kicks the album back into gear in fine style, with some of its best songs. Horseshoes And Hand Grenades
(the song) is superior to anything from the previous act, yet still comes off as one of the weakest songs from this section. The highpoint is probably The Static Age
, a wonderful blast of classic Green Day, that would be a good bet for next single, as it is undoubtadly the catchiest song on the album. Ok, it's a little similar to Church On Sunday
, an underrated gem from Warning
, but it still stands out among other very solid songs. The remaining trio, 21 Guns
, American Eulogy
and See The Light
also rank among the albums better songs, maintaining an excellent ending.
Overall, despite the fact that the album can get a little boring in its mid-section, it still serves as a successful follow up to one of this decades most well known releases. Its flaws are plentiful, but ultimately the music speaks for itself in terms of quality. Those who aren't fans of the band would be best advised to stay away, but there should certainly be plenty to enjoy for fans of Dookie
onwards. It isn't Green Day's strongest release, but under the circumstances is probably all that could be expected. Regardless of everything, it will undoubtadly sell millions, and be an album rightly remembered for its strengths rather than weaknesses.
Know Your Enemy
See The Light
The Static Age