Having gone out on a limb by writing a punk concept album with American Idiot, following its success there is little wonder Billie Joe Armstrong would do it again one day. I have waited a very long time for this! American Idiot caught me at just the right time in my life - unsurprising when I realise that we are all the same age. So what would the writing, the concept and the story be now that the band are in their 30's? The anticipation was huge, but so is 21st Century Breakdown.
Green Day are obviously still evolving as a band, and why not? For those who wanted them to stay the same all this time - go listen to their early stuff again. They are getting older & growing up same as the rest of us!!
Although the narrative of the story is not so complete as American Idiot,(I don't think you could make a stage musical out of this album), it still flows through the emotions of the two main characters. I also think it is less angry. It starts with a typical two-style song in 21st Century Breakdown - beginning slow and then bursting out - and fires on from there. There are the recurring themes of enemies (in all their forms), the age of static and of course, comment on the war and the government (although maybe a little less direct than in American Idiot).
I know lot of people have said that releasing Know Your Enemy as the single was possibly a bad move as it is one of the weaker songs on the album. I know what they mean, as Static Age is more catchy, and 21 Guns works brilliantly at the end of Transformers 2 and will already have had a wider audience. However, I don't think these guys need to think in terms of commercial success any more! I think this was an artistic choice. Why release a possibly better single, but from the 3rd act of the story? Know Your Enemy is one of the pivotal scene setting songs of this opus. Be sure of yourself, know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Make certain that your heroes are not taking you for a ride. This sets you in the mood of the rest of the album as we move on with Christian & Gloria as their lives take twists & turns. Viewed in that light, I think it was the perfect choice for the first single.
I think that Peacemaker and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades are my favourites, but 21 Guns sends a chill down my spine every time. Say what you want about them calming down over the last few years, Billie Joe can write a ballad with an edge like no-one else.
All in all I think this is a triumph. No it isn't American Idiot, but I don't want it to be. 21st Century Breakdown is in turn fiery, direct, challenging and in places, beautiful. This became a firm favourite in a matter of days, and I don't think that is likely to change.