Has it really been five whole years since Green Day released American Idiot? It has, and this May — with sold-out tours, a bunch of platinum plaques, and a pseudonymous side project behind them — the elder statesmen of pop-punk are returning with 21st Century Breakdown. Some coworkers and I just got back from hearing a few unmastered, in-progress selections from the new album at Green Day’s label. Short version: If you loved American Idiot, you will probably like this one, too. It’s another ambitious rock opera about America, love, and faith. Long version: Read on for the goods on the six songs we heard.
* "21st Century Breakdown": The title track unfolded like a Who-style mini-suite, cycling through chords and moods behind Billie Joe Armstrong’s angsty lyrics: "My generation is zero/I never made it as a working-class hero." (Interesting choice of words there.)
* "Know Your Enemy": A more straight-forward, guitar-charging anthem.
* "Before the Lobotomy": Armstrong opens this emotional number in a tender near-falsetto before some powerful riffage kicks in.
* "March of the Dogs": My favorite of the songs we heard, this one pairs pull-no-punches lyrics about organized religion with a propulsive backbeat. The hook reminded me of American Idiot‘s "Holiday," always a good thing.
* "Restless Heart Syndrome": We only heard the second half of this song, which built from crystalline pianos to squalling guitars. The lyrics ("I’m elated/Medicated/I am my own worst enemy") could be about addiction, or something else entirely.
* "21 Guns": A sensitive arena-rock cut that made some of my colleagues think of Toto’s "Africa." I thought the chorus sounded more like ELO’s "Telephone Line." Neither of those comparisons should necessarily be taken as a criticism.
So? Does all that make you more or less excited to hear the new Green Day album? Only a few months to go…