Billy Joe Armstrong

Green Day album delivers trendy surprise

OUT962512In many ways, the 1980s never really died. Many modern bands use a few power chords typical to ‘80s rock, while others play around with the styles and themes of progressive rock. It does come as a bit of a surprise, though, that Green Day would take up this trend in their newest album “21st Century Breakdown.”  Perhaps this assertion is a tad unclear. It is not the case that “21st Century Breakdown” is itself some sort of compilation of ‘80s rock. The album does, however, use a great deal of musical tools reminiscent of the era. The prog stylings of an album with a story line makes some sense, what with Green Day’s previous album “American Idiot” doing the same. What makes much less sense, though, is the usage of riffs and styles commonly associated with ‘80s hair metal.  Perhaps lead singer and band frontman Billy Joe Armstrong sat in a room listening to bands such as Winger, Poison and Twisted Sister before hitting the studio. Certainly one may ask if Armstrong has had a listen to Queensrÿche’s “Operation: Mindcrime,” as much of “21st Century Breakdown”’s story is delivered in a manner similar to Queensrÿche’s own concept album. Whatever the case, Green Day certainly does more than simply experiment with new styles.  Now, this album is not nearly as silly as something by, say, Cinderella, but musically the guitar is both powerful and at times over-the-top. Songs like “21 Guns” and “Last Night on Earth” sound delightfully like power ballads relived, their musical style told anew by Green Day, and “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” embodies a kind of AC/DC rock swagger. It does stand that Green Day covered The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away,” which can be found on iTunes. Armstrong himself mentioned parts of the album were inspired by bands such as The Doors and Meatloaf.  Musically, this sort of style blending could be disastrous. Such an attempt is a great leap for any band, but Green Day manages to retain its own style while forging a new sound. One of the most noticeable songs on the album is “East Jesus Nowhere” (and not entirely because of the title) for its successful blending of aggressive ‘80s style and the sweeping punk-like lyrics and chorus. Fans of more classic Green Day will be pleased with “The Static Age,” which sounds much like a flashback to some of its earlier albums. The aforementioned “21 Guns” may be the album’s best, with its stop-and-start guitar during the chorus and the spacey vocals Armstrong delivers.   On the lyrical end, one could not ask for more. The lyrics can be at times somewhat intense, and as such, seekers of more easy listening may wish to find music elsewhere. The only major problem on the lyrical end is Armstrong’s own slurring voice. He is, as usual, difficult to understand in his pronunciation and level of clarity. Listeners would be well advised to read the lyrics along with the music on the first listen, as many of the more clever, thoughtful and emotive lines can be completely lost in translation.  The album also loosely contains a story. The story in this album, though, is not nearly as thick as in some concept albums; at times the album seems more like a collection of songs with interrelated characters than a linear tale. This is, in its own way, somewhat refreshing — it certainly trumps being beaten over the head with the album’s “hidden meaning,” a tactic favored by bands like Styx. The songs stand on their own as well, so going out of order does not carry too great a penalty. It is certainly an experience in itself to piece together a story in an album, but it is not required.  Some find Green Day a tad preachy, though this album does not seem to come across that way. It seems more like a social commentary, which one can use how he or she wishes. Ultimately, the album does a spectacular job for its genre — it is not the “next big thing,” but it is certainly delightful to hear a band trying new things musically

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