Green Day is dead.
Tre, Mike and Billie are still above ground and playing music, but Green Day died when the millennium came around. Everyone forgot about the punk kids who cared about little except being fast and funny. In late 2000, they put out “Warning,” an album full of regurgitated songs and ideas that rightfully was crushed under the heels of other artists doing new and different things. The boys were no longer angry. They were no longer snot-nosed punks. They were no longer Green Day.
Then in 2004, another Green Day album came out. “American Idiot” was an overblown, pretentious and self-important concept album about someone’s journey through love and life, with just a bit of government mockery tossed in on the side. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. And it did because it was genuine. No longer did they care about being Green Day. No longer were three chord songs and fart jokes more important then what they had to say. The album took off and let the world know that they aren’t the Green Day of old, but some new beast, arisen from the ashes of the 90’s, and were ready to adapt to life in the 21st century.
Five years later, they have responded to their magnum opus with “21st Century Breakdown.” Unfortunately for them, Green Day has once again gone stagnant. They went through big changes in-between “Warning” and “American Idiot” that redefined the band, but “Breakdown” sounds like “American Idiot 2: Electric Boogaloo.” It’s a concept album of loosely strung together songs with thematic components of an opera about a young couple coming to grips with life in the 21st century.
Thebetter parts of three years were spent on this album, but it just feels hollow. Billie Joe Armstrong has gone on record saying that making this album has drained him like no other album has, and I can’t help but think he was trying to pump out a creative force that just wasn’t in him this time around.
“American Idiot” worked because it seemed effortless. Undoubtedly it wasn’t, but it felt real despite being over the top. Here, they have raised the bar again, being 125 percent of “American Idiot.” It’s bigger, louder and has more going on in the music. But bigger isn’t always better, and it seems almost formulaic this time around.
Where “American Idiot” had “Jesus of Suburbia” setting the tone, this has title song “21st Century Breakdown” which sounds just like its predecessor, down to the tempo changes and its description of the main character.
“Know your Enemy,” the first big single, is a fast paced, catchy popish tune with not so subtle antiestablishment undertones. Sound familiar? It should be because it was the title track from “American Idiot.”
“‚¡Viva la Gloria!” sounds so similar to “Letterbomb” that it would border on infringement if it wasn’t the same band. I could go on and on, but 60 percent of this album looks like “American Idiot”s reflection in a funhouse mirror. Sure, it’s different on the surface, but once you twist out the bends, it’s a carbon copy.
What about the other 40 percent, you say? Well, just because it’s not copying older Green Day tunes doesn’t mean that it is drawing a bit too much inspiration from other sources. “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” sounds like The Strokes — who, in a case of going full circle, clearly took inspiration from old Green Day classics.
“21 Gun” sounds like Oasis and John Lennon got together for a jam session, except much less fun that that would.
“Before the Lobotomy” is a mixture of Queen and the Who, and that, as awesome as it seems like it should sound, doesn’t live up.
I can’t shake the feeling that almost everything on this album pales in comparison to its muse. Every time you make a copy, it get more and more faded and bland. Well, this is four copies in and faded almost grey; the band just covered in black paint and a red tie to draw in crowds.
However, there are some good tracks in between the bland and the pretenders. “Christian’s Inferno” is the closest Green Day came to their old punk roots, and it’s almost depressing to hear. They can still play those old simple three-chord wonders but have chosen to go for the arena rock angle.
“East Jesus Nowhere” has nonsensical lyrics, but borrows the right sounds from other bands. It fits in on the albums, stands on its own, and doesn’t instantly remind me of an old radio favorite.
“‚¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)” is the second part to the aforementioned “Letterbomb” copy, but the second half is much better. It starts off as a cabaret style tune, and then breaks into a more traditional chorus, but returns to the catchy melody.
“Peacemaker” is undoubtedly the best track on this album. It’s a mariachi-style track, with above average lyrics (for Green Day) and, most importantly, is fun. That’s something this album lost in its effort to be important. I found myself humming “Peacemaker” all day, and wishing that I had an album based off that song. If you aren’t going to get this album, I would advise getting your hands on at least “Peacemaker” and “‚¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)”. Four tracks don’t make an album but rather show us what could have been had this album not needed to be big and flashy.
The album, which is divided into three parts, clocks in at just under 70 minutes, and once they were up, I still don’t know what the band was trying to do or say. Even through several more listenings, I still can’t even begin to guess what the comment they meant to make was. I know they wanted to say something about America’s current condition, but I’ll be damned if I know what.
When all the pins drop, this will be a successful album. It probably will be the most successful of the year. In an age where people pick and choose songs on iTunes or illegally download albums, Green Day is still an anomaly, selling their CDs in bigger bulk than ever before. I loved their old stuff,and it’s loud careless attitude about how every teen to 20-something feels. I liked “American Idiot” as an album, with each track playing off each other: a point and counterpoint that isn’t seen in modern music.
But I can’t defend this. This album didn’t need to be made. It’s the music of “American Idiot” with the soul stripped away and a few good tunes that don’t mesh well with the rest of the album.
But it will still be the biggest album of the year. They will sell out in stores nationwide. They will sell out entire stadiums. They will probably sell out their whole damn tour. So I was wrong, Green Day isn’t dead. It looks like they just sold out.