Sound — 9
'21st Century Breakdown' is Green Day's second concept record, but it breaks away from the story of 2004's 'American Idiot'. The new record follows a young couple (Christian and Gloria) on their journey into the promise and disappointment of a new age. Green Day is one band that has had plenty of ups and downs with their fanbase over the years due to their occasional change in sound and accusations of them "selling out". The overall sound and composition of '21st Century Breakdown' is very similar to that of 'American Idiot' (2004), though with the new album, the band seems to have moved even further away from their original pop-punk roots. '21st Century Breakdown' rings of influence from more classic artists, most notably The Who, The Beatles, and Neil Young. The lack of more edgy songs on this album is another obvious difference from the band's early albums. The heaviest songs on the album ('East Jesus Nowhere' and 'Horseshoes and Handgrenades') also prove to be some of its strongest points while the softer, more emotional, sometimes piano-laden tracks ('Last Night on Earth' and '21 Guns') make a nice contrast to balance out the record.
Lyrics — 8
Billie Joe Arstrong has always shone as a lyricist, cranking out clever metaphors and well-composed lines on many a song, though on certain tracks on '21st Century Breakdown', he appears to be slightly off his game. There are what appear to be forced rhymes and even a couple cliched lines in 'Restless Heart Syndrome'. Weakness as a lyricist has never been a problem for Billie Joe, though it does rear its ugly head once or twice on this album. Overall- the lyrics are Billie Joe through and through, though they show evident maturity and growth as a songwriter. The vocals on this record are simply spectacular. Something not often seen on past Green Day records make this one stand out from others- Billie Joe's unexpectedly skilled use of falsetto range ('Before the Lobotamy'). Vocal harmony laces the record as per all Green Day albums and is a nod to one element the band has yet to drop since their humble beginnings.
Overall Impression — 9
Green Day has always been a unique band and it shows on this album. They have developed and grown so much since their beginning as the first pop-punk outfit and their music has matured beyond what this writer would have ever forseen. As far as being a landmark album, '21st Century Breakdown' falls short where 'American Idiot' has already succeeded. The new style and sound of the band that shone with 'American Idiot' is still present in the new album, but the shock of a new sound has worn off. So while '21st Century Breakdown' is nothing short of epic, 'American Idiot' kind blew away its chance for being as earthshaking as it could have been. In conclusion- if you have an affinity for concept albums, Green Day, or just plain good music, this album is definitely worth a listen.