Being a guy in his mid-40's who sometimes borders on rock-snobbery, I realize I am not suppose to like Green Day. Sure, Green Day was "cool" back when they were East Bay punks, but now with a second album in 5 years that wears its pretentious sermonizing on its sleeve, the sentiment that Green Day speaks to anyone outside it's target market of 10-14 year old boys is usually met with eyes rolled at best, derision at worst.
Pitchfork Media, self-assigned arbiters of cool music, led the anti-Green Day charge when they gave 21st Century Breakdown only 4.8 out of 10 stars and slagged the album with the following:
21st Century Breakdown is just as pompous and dumb, but it lacks even that old misguided passion. It's a slog, but not the kind that results when a band forgets the importance of editing when in the throes of "trying to say something." Its sprawl feels entirely unearned, three men worried about meeting expectations rather than driven by urgency. The performances are blandly professional, because any major-label rock band of Green Day's abilities could shit this stuff out in their sleep, and emotionally inert. This is the crafting of a modern epic as a dreary day-job routine.
Obviously I am writing this post because I disagree. Now don't ask me what the "story" is all about, I couldn't tell you and to be honest, I couldn't care less. What I like about 21st Century Breakdown is that it rawks. Hard. Is it big dumb rock? You bet your stack of Marshall amps it is but big dumb rock has always had a place in my musical tastes, especially when it marries punk sensibilities with arena-style guitar anthems.
Classic rock grandiosity, punk rock fury, pop song hooks, this album has it all. There is a blatant rip-off of a Hives song that absolutely kills and a shout out to G..L..O..R..I..A in another song.. The last 3rd of the album thunders with a ear-crunching trio of Horseshoes and Handgrenades, The Static Age, and 21 Guns -- songs not only thrilling but bringing the album to a rousing conclusion. The Static Age is particularly fun as it combines hard rock bombast with garage rock sentimentality.
So is 21st Century Breakdown derivative? No doubt. Are the lyrics kinda dumb? Yes. Does it try to hard to be profound? Oh God Yes. But it rocks out from start to finish and is a strong antidote to all the whiny buzz bands that all the cool kids seem to like.