Breaking Down Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown

Green Day’s latest album, 21st Century Breakdown, (Warner/Reprise) is one of this year’s most eagerly awaited music releases and it more than lives up to the anticipation. Their eighth studio album, and first since 2004’s multi-platinum smash American Idiot, finds the band returning in peak form with the hits “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns.”  Many have speculated whether or not the band could recapture the success of their previous Grammy Award winning opus, but all of those fears have been put to rest with their latest three-part punk rock opera. 21st Century Breakdown delivers in abundance, clocking in at almost 70 minutes long, and is every bit as good as American Idiot, if not better.

The album is co-produced by Green Day and Butch Vig (famous for his work with Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana), instead of their long time producer Rob Cavallo who co-produced their biggest hits. Despite the change in producers, the sound remains true to their usual punk-pop sound with plenty of angst and attitude. Breakdown is a return to the story concept album which follows two main characters named Christian and Gloria through their struggles in the post-Bush era. Throughout their journey, they try to stay together in spite of the tumultuous times they live in, as they find themselves trying to endure violence, economic hardship and city riots. Once again, Green Day has chosen to draw from the current state of events and incorporates them into the lyrics, which are told from the main characters’ points of view.

Unlike American Idiot, this album is divided up into three acts which give the album a very distinct beginning, middle and end. This makes for a more diversified album and gives the listener the feeling that they have heard a complete story and traveled on a journey with the characters. Familiar musical themes are repeated throughout which have been designated to each of the characters, much in the same way John Williams did with his score in the Star Wars movies. The album’s lyrics provide vivid images that almost allow the listener to visualize the action as it unfolds in each song.

With its ebb and flow balanced with up tempo tracks and melodic ballads, 21st Century Breakdown is another powerful and consistent offering that could very well be called Green Day’s ultimate masterpiece. At the very least, it leaves us wondering what they will come up with next. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another five years until we find out.

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