I bought this album because I'm a Green Day fan. I have been for a little over fifteen years, since I was in my first year of high school. I'm getting older but have not abandoned the things I grew up with, Green Day being one of them. I remember feeling a slight sense of letdown when I first played American Idiot on my stereo. The political point to that album was not lost on me, even if the narrative was at times vague. I was more dissapointed in songs like "Blvd of Broken Dreams", "Wake Me Up When Sept Ends", and such. "Why must they turn this corner?" I asked myself. I can enjoy ballads and emotionally motivated songs, but these were just sap. On the other hand I found epic songs like "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Holiday", as well as standard Green Day fare like "American Idiot". I hoped that they'd follow it up with something more honest and in what I considered more their style. With the release of 21st Century Breakdown it was mostly a 21st Century Letdown.
Seeing and hearing Green Day these days, it has become apparent that after releasing International Superhits and Shenanigans, the band bookended roughly their first 10 years and set out to conquer the kids of today and maybe hope that the kids of yesterday, like myself, would just continue to follow (or, after less sales of Warning than expected, decided to bid us adieu). Pity. They used to be great.
This is not to say that musically the band is dead to me, or that I grudgingly buy their albums, but that 21st Century Breakdown feels like nothing more than a vague liberal rallying cry to a generation of kids set to generally bland songs with the occasional, clearly derivative, balladry. It borders on the disposable quality of much modern rock and pop punk music that populates airwaves and downloads today. I'm not adverse to a band expanding their musical horizons and I feel Green Day did a great job of that partially on Nimrod and fully on Warning. Even their successful leap to the mainstream for the breakout album Dookie marked a change from their old Lookout releases. But the last two albums, especially 21st Century Breakdown just feel too contrived and too desperate an attempt to latch themselves to legendary boomer bands like The Who and The Beatles (whom I think are great bands). Politically, and as a liberal myself, I find the politics of the album wanting of actual substance. The narrative does nothing to help the listener either; it is even more vague then American Idiot. Why must a story about a guy named Christian and a girl named Gloria lashing out against the crumbling society that begot them and then finding hope in the end take over 50mins to tell me just that. Nothing much more to that synopsis is added throughout the hollow poetic imagery and vague storyline. And then to top it off, the music contains maybe two-three songs I find actually positively stand out ("Christian's Inferno", "Murder City", and the title track off the top of my head). And even the standouts bare an uncanny resemblance to songs from the Green Day catalogue of yesteryear. The rest is mediocre with a few absolute stinkers ("21 Guns" (I can already see the slow dancing in high school gymnasiums) comes to mind).
If you loved American Idiot, you'll eat this up with a spoon. If you preferred their pre-American Idiot material, you likely can't help but feel a longtime friend in the process of drifting away from you. But in this case, that friend could remedy the situation. Unfortunately, Green Day don't seem to be in the mood or mentality of placating old fans like me anymore. Should I bother hoping for better next time? I really don't know.