Sunday, September 06, 2009

Collectibles #28: Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (Deluxe & Limited Edition) (2009)

After the massive success of 2005's American Idiot, Green Day lived up to the expectations and returned with another magnum opus this year, 21st Century Breakdown. This is their first album not to be produced by Rob Cavallo, who served as producer or executive producer for their previous albums - Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod, Warning and American Idiot.

For their latest excursion, Green Day decided to enlist Butch Vig to twiddle the knobs. Vig is no stranger to the producer role, having produced masterpieces like Nirvana's Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. Vig has also produced two tracks for Foo Fighters' upcoming greatest hits album. And of course, he also produced his four albums with Garbage.

Despite working with a different producer, 21st Century Breakdown doesn't sound jarringly different from its predecessor. In fact, it's almost like a seamless continuation of a two-part musical journey. While American Idiot told the story of the anti-hero "Jesus of Suburbia", here it revolves around a young couple called Christian and Gloria.

Narratively, the album is divided into three distinct acts - Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints, Horseshoes and Handgrenades. The music is similar to the punk rock opera sound of the previous album and there are a couple of songs with multiple movements as well.

On American Idiot, Jesus Of Suburbia and Homecoming both exceeded 9 minutes, but here, the longest track is 21 Guns, which clocks in at 5 min 21 sec. So even though they maintained the same style, they shortened the jams so that they're more digestible for the masses and more radio-friendly. To counter this, they packed the album almost to the brim with 18 tracks and a running length of almost 70 minutes. Talk about value for money.

The first single was Know Your Enemy, featuring an insanely-catchy riff and singalong chorus with the customary "oh-way-oh-way" refrain. It was a good song but definitely not the best song from the album. It hit #1 on the three Billboard Rock charts and was #1 in Singapore too.

The second single was 21 Guns, to coincide with the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where it was featured as one of the key songs on the soundtrack. The song was also used quite prominently in the movie. The song is just so-so for me. Definitely not as good as Boulevard Of Broken Dreams or Wake Me Up When September Ends, the "ballads" from the previous album.

The third single is slated to be the title track, which I'm happy because it's one of the best songs from the album. It has a 3-part structure, similar to Jesus Of Suburbia but with two fewer segments and shorter in duration. But it's good enough to stand on its own. However, I don't think it will do very well at radio actually as it is not so straightforward and typical as the songs on radio. But it's a very good song.

Another favourite from this album is ¡Viva La Gloria!. I love the piano intro, played by Billie Joe Armstrong. He only just picked up piano for this album and this is the first time he ever played keys for a Green Day song. So it's something of a milestone for him.

After the melodious piano intro, the song goes into a straight punk rock beat with power chords. The tune reminds me a little of My Chemical Romance's Welcome to The Black Parade! It's very catchy and I hope it gets released as a single. I just hope people don't remark that the "Viva" title is a ripoff of Coldplay's Viva La Vida, which it is miles away from.

I also like Before The Lobotomy. It is another of the multi-part songs, and I like how the ending segment is a variation of the opening segment, but bigger and grander. The middle segment is just ingenious, with the very interesting time signatures and drum beats. It's so fun to play along to this song.

Last Night On Earth is a ballad that fares better than 21 Guns. It is surprisingly stripped down and basic. Armstrong's vocal is restrained and he just sings it straight like a ballad. No rock star screams or aggression. Just emotive and effective.

Butch Vig's grunge influence is perhaps most evident on Horseshoes And Handgrenades. The guitar riff sounds like something that came out of Nirvana, and the opening line ("I'm not fucking around!") is a classic as well. Pure fun.

Overall, I dare say 21st Century Breakdown is an even better album than American Idiot. While it might not have ignited the charts or revolutionised music the way Idiot did, it is a fantastic album and one of the best this year. It will be a shame if it's not nominated at next year's Grammys.

This is the Deluxe Edition consisting of the full album on CD and three 10" vinyls containing each of the three acts on each vinyl. Only 3,000 copies were produced worldwide and I can't bear to open it, but I can tell you the interior contains a special book with 60 pages of unique artwork designed only for this edition.

This is the Limited Edition Best Buy exclusive but I managed to find it in Macau. It is similar to the Special Edition I had for American Idiot and it contains a hardcover book with 52 pages of full colour images. I'm not sure how many copies were produced, but it's pretty rare too.

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