21st Century Breakdown

In 2004, Green Day released a Bush-bashing “rock opera” called American Idiot. It was an ambitious record for three mooks from Berkeley who got their start (and became hugely popular in the process) writing three-chord jams about jerking off and smoking dope. American Idiot catapulted Green Day into an arena-rock powerhouse, if not the biggest rock band in the world. It’s 2009: Bush is gone, Green Day is still here—and instead of following up American Idiot with a dirty, back-to-basics, pop-punk record, we get another sprawling concept album called 21st Century Breakdown. Where Idiot bashed you over the head, Breakdown delivers a flurry of bitch-slaps aimed at religion, government, authority, class wars, you name it. The musical tale—told through lovelorn characters Christian and Gloria—is epic, and has some powerful moments (“East Jesus Nowhere,” “Christian’s Inferno”), but Green Day tries to tackle too many hot-button topics at once. Add to that Butch Vig’s overly slick production, the recycled riffs and Billie Joe Armstrong’s sometimes trite lyrics (“I’m a victim of my symptom / I am my own worst enemy”), and this beast comes across like Politics for CNN-watching Soccer Moms. More ambitious, perhaps, but definitely not as potent.