With their eighth studio album, Green Day finds themselves in a post-American Idiot world and sifting through the consequences of nearly a decade of manipulation, lies, selfishness, and bullshit of the highest order.
The band is older, wiser, and more motivated than ever with 21st Century Breakdown, a seething, brilliant concept album divided into three parts.
Produced by Garbage member Butch Vig, 21st Century Breakdown runs through the narrative of Christian and Gloria, a young couple working through the shattered promises of this century. They live in a world that has let them down and the conventions they have come to rely upon have left them philosophically and spiritually lifeless.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s writing is even more spirited here, as their Johnny-come-lately approach to the Bush Administration left American Idiot a potent record that felt inadequately late to the party. This time, however, the trio starts the jamboree early and never lets up.
Perhaps the notion of big time rockers having something to say about the world, be it the environment or the government, is a little worn out and perhaps their words feel a little vacant at times. But every so often a band or singer steps through the affectation, rips away the film, and tells the truth. Springsteen did it with The Rising and now it’s safe to say that Green Day has done it with 21st Century Breakdown.
Where perhaps a failing of American Idiot was that the songs got a little too immense for the band, here Green Day has chopped things down and kept it lean. The compositions flow effortlessly, ranging from the power punk the band’s become famous for to deliberately sensitive ballads complete with Armstrong nailing a surplus of untamed notes.
Clocking in at a smidgen under 70 minutes, 21st Century Breakdown rolls through 18 tracks of candor, authority, and larger-than-life storytelling. The tempo shifts, key changes, strings, and thunderous guitar keeps things popping, with Tre Cool hammering his snare vehemently and Mike Dirnt’s bass rocking the lower registry expertly.
The first segment of the record, “Act I: Heroes and Cons,” begins after a pithy foreword and sets up our protagonists.