Review Summary: Green Day’s storied career may end on a low note after their latest offering in concept form.
After returning to the top of their genre and after their previous record American Idiot, the only sensible thing for them to do was hang up the guitars. But, they didn't. After the fuss of American Idiot blew over, the band headed back to the studio to record another concept album spanning three acts. There, 21st Century Breakdown was born. Was it worth the wait though?
No. 21st Century Breakdown spins out of control barely after it gets started. With a strong opening track to the forgettable "Know Your Enemy", you could say it's just a rough start for the album. "Know Your Enemy" isn't the worst track on the album though. If you dive in deeper you'll find "American Eulogy" which I would say is one of, if not the weakest song on the record. The story is nigh-on impossible to follow. The concept follows two protagonists who are mentioned way too much in the songs (Christian & Gloria) where their beliefs are opposites. Gloria is a girl who stands by what she believes in and seems to inject some good in the world. Christian however wants to destroy everything. The narrative makes no sense and a lot of the songs are just filler for the twinkling gems which are embedded in the third part of the album.
I want to make this plain; 21st Century Breakdown is a mediocre album at best. Not just musically but lyrically, it falls flat on its face. Lyrics found on one of the best songs on the album "Last of the American Girls" are some of the worst I've read: She is riding her bike/Like a fugitive of critical mass
There's more on the second single, “21 Guns”: Do you know what's worth fighting for/When it's not worth dying for?
Green Day has seemed to swim across a river of clichés and come out soaking wet with failure on the other side. That's another problem with Green Day, they caught politics. Bands like Rage Against The Machine and Rise Against have written songs about politics since the day they started but when Green Day try and get the political statement across, its message is lost in the madness they perform around. Or perhaps we've heard the same tired lyrics over and over again and have lost the inspiring effect that John Lennon was the master of.
But, as we've all albums- some songs are wonderful. "Christian's Inferno" is a straight-up punk rock song with loads of energy. "Last of the American Girls" is the strongest song in the second act, mostly because of the catchy tune which I can see being a popular choice for people to cover on YouTube. The third act is defiantly the best part of the album. It starts off with "American Eulogy" which is pretty bad and then hits you with the best song on the album, "The Static Age". Lyrically it's nothing special but Billy Joe Armstrong finally lets his voice loose, especially in the final chorus. "21 Guns" I liked a lot the first few times I listened to it and then I realised it sounds like a John Lennon rip-off and over-used lyrics. “See The Light” is a real treat to listen to. It begins with the same intro heard on the title track and then Billy Joe Armstrong delivers probably the best lyrics on the album. Sure, it has some simple lyrics but it’s mostly great. There emotion in this song which I can’t quite put my finger on, I think it’s sending out a glimmer of hope after the events of the story (therefore this song I think is from Gloria’s perspective). The catchy drum work found on “The Static Age” and “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades” carries over on “See The Light” and that teamed with the melodic guitars makes “See The Light” the strongest track on the album next to “The Static Age”.
21st Century Breakdown is a confused mess which somehow manages to rub off positively in some areas. Most of the album is forgettable sadly, the story is confused and Green Day’s ambitious concept album falls far short of the target. American Idiot has no fears of being overshadowed amazingly.
-21st Century Breakdown
-Before The Lobotomy
-East Jesus Nowhere
-Last of the American Girls
-Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
-The Static Age
-See The Light