Green Day
21st Century Breakdown


2.0
poor

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
May 11th, 2009 | 974 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fantastically, Gloriously, Epically average.

Green Day is dead.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. The harshest critics of American Idiot called it career suicide, and they were right. American Idiot was a Hail Mary pass of pop music, featuring a teenage band on the wrong side of thirty throwing shit to the wind and going for broke while composing the most ambitious songs of their lives by far. It should have been a mess: An aged radio band discovering politics and writing five part epics while tying it all together with a ridiculous concept sounds like a hilarious disaster, and yet the marvelous thing about American Idiot was -impossibly- it all worked. From the vaguely ridiculous characters to the disgustingly gushing ballads, all of it worked. It provided the spark Green Day’s career desperately needed. It certainly made them relevant again, boasting 6 (!) radio hits, not to mention its influence in pop, as it undoubtedly held some responsibility for similarly bombastic records The Black Parade and Underclass Hero. So after this monumental circus, the only thing left for Green Day to really do was end. For what is a pop act pushing forty drunk off the success of their most impressive record to do? To regress would be a cheeky thanks-but-no-thanks, an acknowledgment that American Idiot was great for what it was, but not Green Day’s true style, thus invalidating the vital honesty of that record. Still, to progress further would be to descend into pretentious obscurity, leaving the band with practically no identity left. Years after the Idiot craze died down, the band announced the follow up: 21st Century Breakdown.

21st Century Breakdown expands upon American Idiot in almost every way imaginable. It’s bigger, more ambitious, and somehow more conceptually vague/ridiculous than American Idiot (seriously). This time around, Green Day discard anything resembling subtlety, which is not to say that subtlety was ever their forte. It is to say, however, that listening to 21st Century Breakdown in its entirety is an experience comparable to masturbating multiple times in succession. Every corner of the album is laden with production gimmicks and song constructions that make it clear that Green Day wanted to make 21st Century Breakdown the most epic experience ever ever ever and to their credit, there sure are anthems abound in these eighteen tracks of driving power chords and soaring harmonies. But rhyming “fighting for” and “dying for” can only be inspiring so many times before sounding trite, and 21st Century Breakdown spirals out of control in its own heroic glory and never regains focus, thus ending with a product that Green Day couldn’t afford to produce: an average record.

And make no mistake, 21st Century Breakdown is an average record. Yes, it is glorious, epic, and even addictive, but it inspires no real reaction of love or hate one way or the other. What made American Idiot work was a certain level of restraint and coherence that made the album mean something. 21st Century Breakdown lacks this. After all, there simply must be a point to this beast of an album, but it’s practically impossible to derive amongst all the political posturing and continuous name-checking of Christian and Gloria (The protagonists of the record. Subtle) as if they had any relevance in the direction of the album. Thus the simple truth is that 21st Century Breakdown leaves no impression, no dent that in the soul that Green Day obviously wanted to smash in.

There are several reasons for this, none more prevalent than the fact that ironically, 21st Century Breakdown’s general sound is rooted firmly in the 20th century (and features few to no breakdowns). 21st Century Breakdown listens something like a name that tune gone awry as Green Day mine their own catalog along with the catalogs of practically every notable classic rock band from the late seventies to create something so wholly unoriginal, it’s embarrassing. Practically every song has a part that can be traced to either an earlier Green Day song or a song by an artist Green Day has admitted to idolizing. For example, on top of being one of the most horrifyingly catchy songs to grace the airwaves, lead single “Know Your Enemy” is decidedly Clash, “21st Century Breakdown” is heavily indebted to The Who, Queen, and “Jesus of Suburbia,” and both versions of “Viva La Gloria” come off simply as lesser versions of forgotten gems on other Green Day records (“Letterbomb” and “Misery,” for those interested). Furthermore, late album stinker “21 Guns” sounds like a terrible rewrite of something John Lennon never released, and “Restless Heart Syndrome” a rev-up of the worst and most popular song off American Idiot, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The list goes on. This is why it is difficult to feel any emotion towards this album. By the end of this schizophrenic adventure, 21st Century Breakdown sounds less like a Green Day record and more like a parody, except no one is laughing.

Of course, the questionable plagiarism might be excusable if there was some reason to it that tied in with the album’s theme or something, but the band falls short here. Seventy minutes of material gives plenty of opportunity for Billie Joe Armstrong to make a strong statement of any kind, but seventy minutes of material also provides plenty of evidence that in all probability, Billie Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There are a lot of lines about the government and religion in here, along with plenty of references to a vaguely defined “you” that Armstrong perpetually finds problems with, but trying to follow along with what Armstrong’s idea is will soon leave one without enough breadcrumbs to get home. Some real lyrical travesties include “Last of the American Girls,” which features the what-the-fuck-does-that-even-mean line ”She is riding her bike like a fugitive of critical mass,” and “East Jesus Nowhere,” an indictment on religion probably, which boasts ”You’re a sacrificial suicide, like a dog that’s been sodomized!” For a band that once bragged at how it lacked motivation, it certainly appears as if they have no motivation right now, but not in a good way. Instead Green Day sound as if they’re half-assing a punk revolution and their message, if it’s there, is getting lost in the laziness.

21st Century Breakdown cannot be viewed as other Green Day records without over-arching themes such as Nimrod or Dookie. The band has made it very clear that there is a concept behind 21st Century Breakdown, from the characterizations of Christian and Gloria (One’s a rebel, one’s an idealist! Will they ever get along??) in interviews to the bizarre dividing of the album into thirds with ludicrous names (“Heroes and Cons,” the first third, is best). Still, the concept is irrelevant. The “story” is too threadbare to make 21st Century Breakdown significant. The album is left to ride on the strength of its songs, and it simply doesn’t have the stamina, which is a shame because although much of the material is inconsequential, there are really good songs buried here. “American Eulogy” is easily among Green Day’s best, one of the few straight up anthems on 21st Century Breakdown that is actually anthemic, and “Christian’s Inferno” is the closest they’ve come to “punk” since Nimrod. “Peacemaker” stands out as the most entertaining song on the record, a no-holds-barred Latin flavored track that makes up for lyrical dribbling with sheer catchiness and vital “ey ey ey ey ey”’s. Still, these tracks are too few and too far between to save 21st Century Breakdown from imploding in on itself and sinking into indifference. Every Green Day record has its gems, and even on an album like Warning, which had its fair share of crap, they all held together. Until now.

21st Century Breakdown cannot sustain itself. It is overbearing, pretentious, huge, and begrudgingly catchy, but most importantly, it unveils a band without direction. The snot nosed punks of the nineties died long ago, and the reincarnation that stormed in with American Idiot has exploded into a mass so unrecognizable, one can almost not regard them as Green Day. Sure, they still sound like Green Day, but these are not the same men who struck pop gold with an absurdly brilliant rock opera, though they want to be. These men are different; they are older and tired, and have left a decidedly apathetic aftertaste with 21st Century Breakdown. Maybe they’ll eventually rediscover themselves and come up with something revolutionary again. At any rate, that is a more comforting thought than the creeping suspicion they simply don’t have another good album in them.



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user ratings (1994)
Chart.
2.6
average
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Dalton DuBois (1)
    Iron Sputnik Episode 1 – Green Day Soufflé...

    Michael B. (2.5)
    Three-part symphony of insanity proves to be a game of two halves....

    DrEpic4181 (2.5)
    21st century breakdown is one of the stupidest albums ever made...

    Nicksta101 (3)
    Green Day’s storied career may end on a low note after their latest offering in concept ...

  • Alexandra Caramelli (2.5)
    Another "punk rock opera" by Green Day laced with pianos and violins....

    MartinBigg (5)
    Green Day's most ambitious album to date is here, but is it their best effort?...

    Dylan S. (3)
    This is exactly what you would expect from Green Day post-American Idiot...

    quesoboy88 (2)
    Nice melodies, but horrible lyrics, storytelling, and singing make 21st Century Breakdown ...

  • megalodon (4)
    I don't remember the last time Pop-Punk sounded so good....

    Nosferatwo (3)
    Green Day tries to recycle the formula, but misses the mark....

    Pedro B. (4)
    Green Day's real maturity album surmounts its flaws through sheer force of character....

    Ali CONTRIBUTOR (3.5)
    An album with plenty of flaws, but ultimately one that delivers....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Douchebag
May 12th 2009


3624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol Sputnik is so negative! I love this album and my only complaint is that the story makes no sense whatsoever and is impossible to follow.

I don't get how everyone says it's catchy as hell and then gives the album a 2.This Message Edited On 05.11.09

TrafficHaze
May 12th 2009


80 Comments


"Yes, it is glorious, epic, and even addictive, but it inspires no real reaction of love or hate one way or the other."

I agree with that sentence 100%. It's a decent album if you're observing it in a vacuum, but when you consider what they supposedly set out to do, and the fact that these three guys are closing in on 40 and still rehashing (and basically plagiarizing) their old material, it's a pretty underwhelming effort.

This Message Edited On 05.11.09

MrGlass
May 12th 2009


326 Comments


gotta give this a listen

Kiran
Emeritus
May 12th 2009


6002 Comments


The lyrics are hilarious

rasputin
May 12th 2009


14555 Comments


i thought you said you liked this

rasputin
May 12th 2009


14555 Comments


lmao

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I went into the review with the objective of giving this a 2.5 or maybe even a 3 but as I started in on it I just couldn't do it. My personal rating is still +.5 because I like a little more of this than I say in the review, but most of it I can't even pretend to like.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
May 12th 2009


4957 Comments


i dont think ive ever listened to a green day album all the way through.

scyther
May 12th 2009


1606 Comments


This review is great.

The album...

This is what happens when you discover an interesting subject (in this case politics, as you said) but only educate yourself on the pro-side. Green Day have become a perfect example of the pseudo-socialist. Still, their the best pop-punk band ever.This Message Edited On 05.11.09

Acre
May 12th 2009


847 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I think I like this a little bit more than you. But only a little bit. And that's mostly because I was effectively birthed on a diet of Green Day by my father.

ninjuice
May 12th 2009


6760 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Completely agreed. I think this to be a bit shorter but it's definitely not too long either.
Viva La Gloria is the only song that I liked at first, and after that everything else just got worse.
.This Message Edited On 05.11.09

jacks592
May 12th 2009


108 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

American Idiot did not "work"
it was probably one of the most contrived and ridiculous albums that green day could have ever written. not one song was worth listening to twice.

Skyler
May 12th 2009


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Album fucking sucks. I agree with your review for the most part, except the bit about American Idiot. That album was stupid and pretentious, and this just takes that even further.

scyther
May 12th 2009


1606 Comments


Way to totally miss his point on American Idiot.

Mr_Coffee
May 12th 2009


631 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

lol Sputnik is so negative! I love this album and my only complaint is that the story makes no sense whatsoever and is impossible to follow.

And he gave it a 5/5. I can't belive it.This Message Edited On 05.11.09

marksellsuswallets
May 12th 2009


4848 Comments


And he gave it a 5/5. I can't belive it.

I can't believe that you can't believe that...

MentalityOfA
May 12th 2009


1213 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I've got nothing to say.
Just look at my rating.

FailureOnMyLips
May 12th 2009


75 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"listening to 21st Century Breakdown in its entirety is an experience comparable to masturbating multiple times in succession."

well put.

Zippermouth
May 12th 2009


1305 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I really don't understand that

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2009


20858 Comments


Great review Adam. Took a little while setting it up with all the American Idiot talk, but most of it was required in retrospect.



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