21st Century Breakdown by Green Day music review

green_day_21st_century_breakdownThe reports that 21st Century Breakdown is a rock opera have been grossly exaggerated – if recommend that if you miss the 90s, Pearl Jam has an album coming out later this year. In short, this album sucks, especially the beginning, but it gets better as it goes on, which takes a damn long time because there are 18 songs on this flaming pile.

A lot of reviews (see Rolling Stone) say that Green Day has finally grown up, but not in my eyes. The songs might be a bit more diverse in production, but they aren’t exactly breaking new ground, but maybe just breaking new ground for a punk band. “Song of the Century” doesn’t really make sense; it just rhymes, and the old time radio production doesn’t really meet my expectations for the first song of an album that’s called, “21st Century Breakdown.”

The lyrics are full of cliches – take “21st Century Breakdown” for example, which is always quoting/alluding to song titles and other song lyrics, when Billie Joe Armstrong sings, “I never made it as a working class hero” or “I once was lost but never was found” or “Born on the 4th of July.” And “21st Century Breakdown” is one of the stronger songs on the album, but it’s break down sounds too much like, “god gave rock n roll to you” by Kiss. And I can’t figure out what Armstrong is saying at the end of most stanzas in “Know Your Enemy” – we’re guessing “Righ -ya.” And I wish he’d left the guitar solo off of “Know Your Enemy” – it’s a pathetic solo even for a pop song, and like the rest of the album, nothing ever really happens.

I blame all you “punks” who gushed over Green Day’s “Time of Your Life,” (not that they weren’t already washed up at that point) because now Green Day is really just too into ballads, as is evident in “Viva La Gloria,” until the song turns into a pretty standard Green Day song, just another day at the office. “Before the Lobotomy” follows the same format as “Viva La Gloria,” and why shouldn’t it? It’s the next song on the album immediately after “Viva La Gloria!”

“Christian’s Inferno” has some ill advised drum machine during its long intro – instead of the ballad intro like on the previous two songs, they went with the Trent Reznor intro. “Last Night on Earth” sounds like it desperately wants to be a John Lennon song from his solo period, but it doesn’t happen. Armstrong sings, “I text a postcard, sent to you,” an attempt to get us to the 21st Century with texting technology after the early 20th century intro of “Song of the Century,” but the song wobbles on for nearly four minutes with maybe two and half stanzas worth of lyrics at most and when he sings, “If I lose everything in the fire” you can’t help wonder if he’s again recalling movies he saw a few years back. (“Born on the Fourth of July!”)

“East Jesus Nowhere” begins, “Raise your hands now to testify/Your confession will be crucified/You’re a sacrificial suicide/Like a dog that’s been sodomized” – what the hell is that supposed to mean? And the vibrato picking is in serious danger of blatant copyright infringement of Dick Dale’s “Misirlou.”  “Peacemaker” is interesting from a production standpoint, but its still pretty funny to hear a string section and piano on a Green Day album. Unfortunately, the lyrics to “Peacemaker” are no better than any other song in the ‘opera,’ as Armstrong begins this round of torture with, “Well, I’ve got a fever/A non-believer/I’m in a state of grace/For I am the Caesar/I’m gonna seize the day.” I wished he’d seize an eraser and redrafted his lyrics before he recorded this crap.

I could go on, but I’m already exhausted and there are TEN MORE SONGS OF THIS CRAP! And these songs really beg the question: why write an album with 18 songs that aren’t really about anything?  It boggles the mind!   They promised us “Tommy” and we got crap, but this is a good life lesson for us all – it’s not a rock opera just because the artist says it is; it’s a rock opera when it has elements of story, characters, and, well, you know, elements of opera.

When someone calls their album a rock opera, you have to compare it to “Tommy” – this is insulting to The Who and unfair to Green Day, but “Tommy” is the gold standard in terms of rock operas and therefore the basis for comparison and the very definition of rock opera. “21st Century Breakdown” is not a rock opera; its much closer to a concept album, as “21st Century Breakdown” doesn’t have a plot but more of a central theme… and that theme is… uhm, anti religion? Anti authority? Something like that; it’s not entirely clear. If you read the Rolling Stone review, you might think that this album includes lush character portraits and a vibrant story line, but neither exist. So, to reiterate: it’s not a rock opera because someone says it is and it’s not a rock opera when the piece doesn’t have a plot. Opera’s have plots. They have themes, too, but you also must have a plot and if that plot is going to make sense, you can’t have “Last Night on Earth”in the middle of the album without having the rest of the album deal with issues of the afterlife or resurrection or something that makes some kind of sense!  (But you’d have to include characters to do something like that… oh never mind.)


Check out Billy Joe’s hair and makeup – he looks like a high school cafeteria cashier after a hard night of drinking!   And what the hell is he saying?

My Rating: 2 out of 5

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on May 15, 2009, in music review and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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