When it comes to Green Day and the 2000s, American Idiot is known by all. When we talk about the critically underwhelming three-piece !UNO!, !DOS!, and !TRÉ! we consciously move on.. However, there is a Green Day album between those two that we neglect to talk about—an era of Green Day where the band experimented with new sounds while simultaneously building on what they already had with American Idiot. While 21st Century Breakdown isn’t Green Day’s best release, it’s definitely the most underrated. With 2019 being the album’s ten year anniversary, there’s no better time to talk about the eighteen (!!!) track output.
The title track gives off “Jesus of Suburbia” vibes, with ever-changing tempos and melodies. Lyrically, it has “Holiday” fingerprints all over it, with a healthy helping of home-grown lines Bruce Springsteen’s been chucking out since forever.
For the Green Day fan who hasn’t heard this album before, there’s plenty familiar: tones, lyrics, riffs, and tightness from essential listens off Dookie are here and ever-present in “East Jesus Nowhere”, “Horseshoes and Handgrenades”, “Know Your Enemy”, and “Before the Lobotomy” . While curveball songs such as “¿Viva La Gloria?” and “Peacemaker” carry a heavy Latin influence that still won’t make it onto your cousin’s Quinceañera playlist, they pack a punch and are chock full of experiments gone right.
Riding the curveball, I need to talk about the song “Last Night on Earth”—the Bowie-laced space ballad. What makes this song one of my favorite Green Day tracks is its intuitive chromatic chord progression which creates perfectly fitting melodies and guitar lines. It’s seriously one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard and is my definite highlight for the whole album. Another example of a hard-hitting ballad (emphasis on the "hard-hitting") is "21 Guns", which infiltrated the minds of the masses, showcasing how exceptional of a songwriter Billie Joe and company are. They always find a way to write songs that are simple, catchy, andunique enough to be distinguishable by any.
To put it simply, 21st Century Breakdown was an era for Green Day that hit all the musical bases, and yet punk fans rarely seem to bring it up in conversation. It’s a beautiful continuation of American Idiot, providing plenty of differences to keep things interesting. It’s not quite a rock opera, but it is definitely a concept album. I haven’t even gotten into the pop rock nugget “Last of the American Girls” or the title track sister song “American Eulogy”. I want you, yes you, to find them for yourself.
Written by Gabe Straight