Sound — 7
From the iconic 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours to the now rock-operatic 21st Century Breakdown, Billie Joe and the gang have always written everything from beautiful ballads to all out punk thrashers while remaining listener-friendly, and fan base faithful. After the subtle disappointment of 2001's American Idiot, Green Day have learned from their mistakes, and instead of making an album for the charts, they went all out. 21st Century Breakdown takes everything for it's musical arsenal, and grabs you from the first track to the last. It's fair to say that this is one of Green Day's best achievements since their album, "Dookie". One of the best parts of the album is that it features 18 solid songs, in a world where 10 songs can be considered worth 24 bucks. The news of this being another Concept Album / Rock Opera has scared away some fans, but never fear, the story stays solid, and there's enough filler to make it feel like it's not being driven by the story itself.
Lyrics — 8
Green Day have never been strangers to angst-ridden punk, and so here they strike again, with some chart-worthy singles galore, very diverse in style and genre, as well as solid with Green Day's signature sound. 01.Song of the Century: the intro to 21st Century Breakdown does anything but disappoint, acting as a ride on a roller coaster, getting ready to throw you down the steep drop into the rest of the album. The song features some solo singing by Billie with an authentic forties-single feel, complete with scratching '45 needle, and distorted cracks and hisses. Quite an interesting song in terms of melody. 02.21st Century Breakdown: the album's title-track opens up with some bouncy piano, into classic rock-opera vocals, launching into classic Green Day. The vocal harmonies in this song are fantastic, and the driving guitar slides keep it groovy. It's got traces of the American Idiot sound, but it also has pleasant roots in something you might have heard in Nimrod. 03.Know Your Enemy: the albums first single is, as expected, completely overplayed. That is, of course, not to say that it is a bad song. Know Your Enemy is definitely American Idiot inspired. A solid drum beat keeps the song interesting, but the monotonous guitar and lack of distinguishable lyrics leaves you bored after the first minute. I'm trying to be unbiased, but with all the radio play, it's extremely hard to keep appreciating this song. 04.Viva La Gloria!: if you're having a hard time keeping track of the album's supposed story, don't worry. The story revolves around two characters; Christian and Gloria. The song itself starts out with some arpeggiated piano chords, followed by Billie Joe crooning some deep lyrics. The song begins orchestral in nature, with strings and timpanis galore, but quickly kicks in the door with some catchy power chords, and finishes strong in classic Green Day fashion. 05.Before The Lobotomy: Before the Lobotomy is a good song, but the fact that it sounds familiar totally throws me off. I like it, but I can't shake the feeling that I've heard it before. The song starts off with some smooth "pretty" guitar, going into some interesting guitar parts. We're starting to notice some diversity in the album at this point. 06.Christian's Inferno: finally, we meet the second character in this subtle story, Christian. This track is different in the fact that it can't seem to decide what it wants to sound like, which is a positive thing. At times, it's in a minor key with Billie yelling Holiday-style, with an overlay of a megaphone effect. The chorus itself is a catchy sing-along style chorus in a major key, ending with pronounced laugh tracks by Billie. 07.Last Night On Earth: I personally love this track, but I doubt others will feel the same. It's the closest thing to a love song we have on this album, and it's slow and pretty. A common chord progression leads this song with a driving piano and a backing guitar, complete with delay effects, and lots of reverb. That's not to say it's uninventive, although technically speaking it is, but it's also quite an interesting track. If you didn't like Good Riddance, skip this track. 08.East Jesus Nowhere: East Jesus Nowhere begins with some guitar reminiscent of Wolfmother (although that point is debatable). Catchy guitar rakes drive the cadence-style track and give it an extra bounce, while the vocals are mixed low. It actually sounds quite a bit like Welcome to Paradise, which is nice, because I know we all missed that sound. 09.Peacemaker: this is my all time favorite track off this album. It's a very catchy 4/4 with a walking bass line, and almost an Italian feel to it, sort of like Hitching a Ride without all the staccato drum beats. It's an easy song with some James Bond-esque guitar, but it never fails to captivate, and the vocals really bring this song together, showcasing insane harmonies. 10.Last of the American Girls: I think this is the first time Green Day has used a drum machine. Last of the American Girls (or LAG, as I will refer to it) is an interesting track, mixing old Green Day (say, "She" for instance) with American Idiot. It's like they took She and She's a Rebel, and combined the two. The result is a catchy sing-along track, and I can almost guarantee it will be a single. 11.Murder City: Murder City does not, by any means, sound like Green Day, but strangely, this isn't at all a major problem. The song itself is a speedy 4/4, with some a catchy chorus showcasing Green Day's new found love of dual-vocals. It's a pretty good track, definitely a single at one time or another, because it's very radio friendly, which is not to suggest it's bad, just accessible. 12.Viva La Gloria?: the track begins with some nice piano trills alongside a catchy bass line, and immediately goes into this bouncy track, another Italian-style waltz track. Billie sings solo for a while, then the guitars kick in. Despite my user name (yes, I know, I can't exactly change it) I'm sorry to say it bears resemblance to Mother by My Chemical Romance (I know, I know!!! I promise, I'm over my MCR phase, I promise!). 13.Restless Heart Syndrome: perhaps I wasn't being entirely truthful when I said that Last Night on Earth was the only ballad on the CD. Restless Heart Syndrome opens with piano and strings, and adds on some strummed steel strings and eventually drops some drums. It's slow and pretty and melodic, and definitely an epic song, depending on your perspective of the word, "epic". 14.Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: this one is an incredible track, highly reminiscent of old Green Day, and keeps a march/cadence feel throughout the whole thing. It's angry, it's punk, and it's fantastic. 15.The Static Age: could've done with or without this track to be completely honest. It's nice, but it's nothing really notable. It doesn't seem to go with the rest of this album. However, I will give it credit for keeping with the old Green Day style. 16.21 Guns: 21 Guns is one of this albums best songs. It's ballad-like, but it's also very neo-political and, dare I say it, angsty. The chorus is fantastic. I almost wish this were the last track on the album, solely for the fact that it sounds like it could be. 17.American Eulogy: American Eulogy reprises Song of the Century before launching into complete chaos, going into a very driving song on the album. It sounds like a midway song between Shenanigans and American Idiot, which remains a good thing. It's a little more theatrical than the other songs, using heavy drum 'verb, and heavy political lyrics, sounding almost like Homecoming the way it constantly changes. 18.See the Light: so here we are, the final track of the album, and so far, it's been a pretty damn good trip, and See the Light in no way ruins it. If you picture this album as a roller coaster, See the Light is where you get off and look back at the ride itself, realizing that it was good, and you'd do it again if you felt like it. It has a very distinct feel to it, and you may like it, you may hate it.
Overall Impression — 8
Considering all the other albums that got released this year, including the fateful introduction to "Lady Gaga", this album went pretty well. I know I anticipated it, and I was not at all dissapointed, however I was pleasantly surprised. They took all the good things from American Idiot, and incorperated it with formulas that they knew worked well, and the end result is a fairly good album. It's not their best, by far, as Mike has been quoted saying, but it's definitely up there as one of their best, and hopefully they won't stop here. If this is any indication, they're just getting started!