Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green Day - 21st Century Break Down Review and Open Letter to The Band

As seen in an edited and censored version on Deaf Left Ear.com

Preface: I am reviewing this album as a life-long Green Day fan, not a music reviewer. I will not draw comparisons to other bands of the classic rock era when describing what I think it is that they did with the new album. I will also not recall their history, if you want that, hit up Wikipedia.

21st Century Breakdown
If Green Day isn’t the most All-American rock band of their time, they are at least the most critical of this country. Seriously, what the hell? You’d think that after the George W. Bush administration left office, which “American Idiot” spoke directly to, that Billie Joe Armstrong might feel better or more optimistic about the future. If the lyrics in the album are any indication (almost 100% written by Armstrong) one might think that Armstrong still believes that we are all still fucked.

21st Century breakdown is indeed the 2nd rock opera for Green Day and a dark one at that. The album is broken down into 3 acts, and it’s very obvious that the songs in any given act almost represent a different sound for the band. Overall, I hear a ton of Green Day’s 2000 album, “Warning.” Let’s have a look at each act:

Act 1 – Heroes and Cons
Apparently, this is where we’re supposed to meet the two main characters of the opera. Gloria is the one with hope and goodness left in her while Christian is the demon who embraces the dark. Most of the songs in the first act are great and super-catchy. The best three songs from the act, 21st Century Breakdown, Viva la Gloria!, and Before the Lobotomy all start slow and down-tempo but mange to finish kicking ass, taking names and melting faces. It sounds a lot like the Foo Fighters live album, “Skin and Bones” where supposedly they played an acoustic show but every song ended up with the band going nuts… in a good way. ‘Know Your Enemy’ is a rare track in the sense that it rocks hard from start to finish but I think it will suffer the same fate that ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ did, which was being slaughtered by the radio. Even though it’s a solid song and catchy, I don’t think it will stand the test of time especially on repeat, especially on repeat. See what I mean?’Christian’s Inferno’ needs more ‘St. Jimmy’ in it while ‘Last Night On Earth’ feels like it doesn’t belong, being that it’s a straight up love song.

Act 2 – Charlatans and Saints
This act is by far the weak spot of the album. ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ is the gospel, preachy song of the album in the way it actually laments religious fanatics. It just a strange song. Armstrong will love this one on tour with his uber-favorite striking the Jesus pose. The second incarnation of ‘Viva la Gloria? (little girl)’ sounds reminiscent of ‘Misery’ off “Warning.” Is the sole purpose of these songs to move the story along? Besides ‘Murder City’ which is strong, the second act: weak-sauce. This isn’t the sound that made Green Day or what they want to be known for.
In the most recent Rolling Stone (RS1079) article about Green Day, and Rolling Stone writers are a bunch of apologists, Armstrong is quoted as saying “Ground zero for me is still punk rock. I get something uplifting out of painting an ugly picture. It’s just my DNA.” Well the second act is most definitely an ugly picture but never comes close to punk rock.

Act 3 – Horseshoes and Handgrenades
Wait, Green Day finally showed up to make the last 5 songs of the album the best five songs. ‘American Eulogy’ is the closest thing to the 9 minute plus epics off “American Idiot” and is pretty awesome. The first part to that song, ‘Mass Hysteria’ stinks of ‘Dead Beat Holiday’ off “Warning” but that song along with ‘Horseshoes and Handgrenades,’ ‘The Static Age,’ and ’21 Guns’ is what it’s all about. The final track ‘See the Light’ is by far the most positive song on the entire album.

Has life gotten so rough in the last 18 years that being positive is hard to do? Green Day is arguably the biggest band in the world and the dudes all lead fairly non-outrageous lives outside of their rock stardom. Things are going great for them, the next step should be to lighten up and rock out.

Even though major comparisons were drawn to the album “Warning” this album does have a unique sound carried throughout the album. The three tracks that possess that sound unique to this album are ‘21st Century Breakdown,’ ‘ Murder City,’ and ‘The Static Age.’
In closing, this album is huge, heavily produced and has that big opera/circus feel to it which they were going for with Butch Vig as the producer. It may be the next step for their careers but I think many real Green Day fans over the age of 21 are shaking their heads thinking, “Dude, What The Fuck?” but will like this album.

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An Open Letter to Green Day in bullet point form:

Dear Green Day,

• What up? How are you? I’m good, I think the new album is really good.

• Why don’t you make Jason White a real member of the band? We don’t mind. He basically plays all the guitar solos on every song written after “Dookie” when you play it live. He’s a cool dude.

• What’s the deal with the eyeliner?

• We don’t mind if you want to wear jeans and t-shirts when you play.

• Sure Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Cheifs are good bands, but what about helping better up and coming bands?

• Please stop making music that my Mom wants to listen to.

• And finally, please please please up the punx. You must.

• With all this said, see you in D.C., I’ll be there. If anyone in the Green Day camp sees this – holler at me.

A Green Day Fan for life,
Brian Graber – graber29 [at] gmail.com

1 comment:

Ariela Steif said...

Really? Your mom listens to Green Day?

Nice review...