CD of the week

Fri, May 15, 2009, 01:00

GREEN DAY 21st Century Breakdown Warner ****

How do you follow up the most successful album of your 20-year career? If you’re Green Day, you take a winning formula and run with it. The Californian trio’s eighth studio album picks up where 2004’s American Idiotleft off, and then adds some extra swagger, rip-roaring riffs and further commentary on politics and religion.

American Idiotwas a shift for lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong in particular. Swapping his rebellious teenage anthems for ruminations on the US during a fraught political period, it utilised a number of characters to illustrate the band’s dissatisfaction with matters of globalisation as well as George Bush’s administration.

21st Century Breakdownemploys a similar tactic, using people called Christian and Gloria to chronicle a loose concept album. It’s split into three acts over 69 minutes, but this is no Tommy, although there are several moments of ostentatious glitz that perhaps doff their cap to The Who.

In fact, many of these songs (especially Before the Lobotomyand the arms-aloft closer, See the Light) have a touch of the operatic, with their serene intros, surges of frantic surf-punk skitters and melodramatic conclusions.

In that respect, the first singles – the middling Know Your Enemyand an ode to the futility of war, 21 Guns(“Does the pain weigh out the pride?”) – aren’t representative of the album. Cynics will be more impressed by big ballads Last Night on Earthand Restless Heart Syndrome, while the brisk wild- west punk of Peacemakerfurther advances Green Day’s evolution.

That said, producer Butch Vig ensures that, while there are sombre moments, the next punchy riff is never far away. With Green Day, there’s always a danger of veering into a Bill Ted’s Excellent Adventurepastiche, but 21st Century Breakdownis edgy and audacious in all the right ways. www.greenday.com

Download tracks: Last Night on Earth, Horseshoes Hand Grenades, Peacemaker