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Green Day “21st Century Breakdown” (single)

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

Somewhere between “Walking Contradiction” and “American Idiot,” Green Day went from being a group of pseudo-squatters to a stadium-sized band writing rock operas. And, despite the generally underwhelming American Idiot, I can’t criticize the band for anything other than making its fourth consecutive hit or miss album. Other people liked it, and as it’s widely accepted as their “comeback” album, and has sold damn near 10 million copies worldwide, I’d be absolutely dense if I thought that my opinion echoed that of anything but a minuscule minority. But that aside, what’s there to do after recording such a well-accepted politically-leaning rock-opera? Record another as its successor.

A few days ago, when Spin was given an exclu-clu-clusive listening session of a few tracks from Green Day’s forthcoming 21st Century Breakdown, the immediate reaction posted on their site read, “In the six songs, Green Day keep their punk urgency and lyrical angst, but expand their ambition. They use dramatic musical shifts reminiscent of Queen, and Who-like classic rock guitars.” The article continued by focusing on the title track, “Green Day’s most epic song yet. With the quiet-verse, loud-chorus dynamics of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ this five-minute cut builds from harpsichord and Edge-like guitar fills to assaultive drums and arena-filling barre chords. Armstrong’s lyrics about his peers are as urgent as the music: ‘My generation is zero / I never made it as a working class hero. Dream America, dream / Scream America, scream.’”

While their repetitive assessment has some truth to it, I’d argue that the Edge comparison doesn’t have a leg to stand on and that there’s just as much Cheap Trick in the song as there is the Who. The Queen influence is dominant though—actually, for the last minute or so, if you hear anything but Queen, I’d argue that you’ve never really heard Queen. “21st Century Breakdown” is a daunting track that sounds just as suitable for play on your local classic rock radio station as last year’s AC/DC album, and with the exception of a brief drum homage to “Longview” half way through there’s little in the song that remains of the Green Day of old. The shift towards becoming a band big enough to fit the shoes that Dookie afforded them has taken well over a decade, but they’ve finally done it. Whether or not their music is any better for it, well, there are probably another 10 million people out there who would argue against me on that as well.