Today, as many of you are likely aware, Green Day released their 8th studio album. This album is called "21st Century Breakdown" and has been cited as "Even more ambitious than American Idiot..." by none other than Rolling Stone magazine. A startling claim you may well think, when recalling the sheer impact of 2004's "American Idiot", the palpable hype surrounding the record, the epic qualities of the album itself and indeed the fact that at this very moment you could very probably recite half of the record's content entirely from memory.
However considering how poorly regarded Rolling Stone is in the world of music journalism, I have to recommend that you instead check out a review by a far more reliable source: powerhousemusic.
Yeah, the guy from Rolling Stone was pretty much spot on. "21st Century Breakdown" is a sprawling epic, eclipsing "American Idiot" with the sheer magnitude of what it attempts to accomplish. That's not to say that it is a better album; it is however an undeniably grander one.
The record has been branded by some as a concept album, the band itself claims that while it is not a concept album per-say: "there's a thread that connects everything", the 18 track album "chronicles the life of a young couple named Christian and Gloria as they deal with the mess our 43rd president left behind...". Now let's get the poor aspects of this record of of the way (relatively) early: while a loose concept is clearly evident, it's finer points sadly are virtually indecipherable throughout the album. Yet I must stress that the overarching theme of merely two, struggling through the chaos of the modern world, is beautifully portrayed from beginning to end; driving the mammoth, intricate and often eclectic piece in a firm direction. I at-least was rapidly stuck by the enormity of the record's content; in the hands of less seasoned rockers one gets the impression that it could easily have derailed and become a catastrophic and muddy waste of time.
Yet once recovered from the initial impact of the record, there is ultimately one further flaw holding back the otherwise awesome album: Green Day is now and always has been (to an extent) a band that is immensely skilled in producing a multitude of tracks that are startlingly the same. Yes some may say that this can be said of just about any band, yet this record truly shines when Billie Joe and Co. depart from what they've already proved they can do so well. Embracing new techniques, styles and musical devices has produced some of what are unquestionably rock's greatest triumphs in recent memory, while around 4 or 5 tracks cover no new ground and as a consequence somewhat lessen the impact of the record as a whole.
This said, Green Day do what they do better than anyone else in the industry; and those (not myself) diehard punk-rock fans will wholly appreciate (nearly) every second of this album as the combo tears through new material with relentless energy and passion. Still present however are the slower and more melancholic tracks akin to "Wake Me Up...", with moments such as "Restless Heart Syndrome" and "21 Guns" surely worthy of a stadium filled with swaying, lighter-brandishing fans. Green Day sited Queen as a primary influence during the recording of the album and at times this is exceptionally evident; as epic stadium-rock guitar often flows over the mix, at times also resembling the work of Muse's Matt Belamy. However the record at certain stages yearns for a screaming solo that never comes; Armstrong instead favoring melodic yet repetitive lines over the pedestrian chord progression.
Billie Joe has however demonstrated what is very probably the most interesting and complex guitar playing of his career; experimenting particularly with the 'wild-west'/dub/fuzz-tone guitar which is always so much fun to hear (you will know what I mean); check out "Christian's Inferno" for an apt demo. Also largely new to the Green Day camp is Billie's piano playing and desire to utilize orchestration in certain arrangements. These are frequently highlights and provide a beautiful respite from the intense and relentless punk of much or the record. Vaguely on that note; there is more than a hint of the finer moments of MCR's "The Black Parade" and "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge" throughout the album, this however is by NO means a negative factor as I cannot catch even a whiff of emo.
Yet the greatest player on the record has to be the hilariously-named Tré Cool; the drumming across the board is (without fail) outstanding and an absolute delight to hear. Cool consistently demonstrating that drums don't have to be boring and or clichéd to fit into the mix. Awesome.
BUT I have qualms between the similarity between these two beats:
1,000,000 - Nine Inch Nails
Know Your Enemy - Green Day
Not intentional I'm sure but regardless... -_-
I will now shut up.... soon.
"21st Century Breakdown" is in essence a fantastic album. A breath of fresh air in the turgid rock scene of today, an album that experiments and yet ultimately remains true enough to it's origins to retain credibility and a HUGE (understatement) fanbase. It's truly heavyweight, a (maybe) concept album of epic proportions, yes it has it's faults (as does just about everything), but this is an absolute monster of an record that can only get better with time.
So buy it.
Abridged novel coming soon people. ;)