If anyone had suggested, circa Dookie fifteen years ago, that Green Day would one day carry the torch for the classic rock opera ... well, no one would have. But now the band who sang, on that album, Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once? have plenty to say — about everything.
21st Century Breakdown not only picks up where the mega-selling American Idiot left off, it ups the ante with one broad-stroke proclamation after the next. In other words, a full-blown Statement. Populated with catch phrases (I don't want to live in the modern world, desperate, but not helpless), the narrative tracks two well-intentioned but beaten-down souls, Christian and Gloria, who are bitterly adrift in the post-Bush malaise that a naive, easily manipulated America brought upon itself.
Every track is an anthem, but Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool, periodically augmented by pianist Jason Freese and produced by Butch Vig, steer clear of excess and cliché as they navigate their tale, which is divvied into three acts. It could have easily gone any of several wrong ways, but Green Day's punk has long since been tempered with pop's most attractive attributes, and 21st Century Breakdown, like its predecessor, is unapologetically accessible and relentlessly exhilarating. Classic-rock references abound, and that's no doubt deliberate: in a musical climate so driven by disposability, Green Day still believe in making records that define their era. And they've made another one. (Reprise)
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