Divided into three acts with recurring themes and musical motifs running throughout, American Idiot follow-up 21st Century Breakdown is another indictment of rampant American idealism. But where Idiot took on Bush and his overseas war machine, Breakdown stays on U.S. soil, surveying the state of religion, welfare, and various other collapses as the two young lovers at the center of the tale navigate their shaky futures. Billie Joe Armstrong can still be heavy-handed, but 21st Century Breakdown contains his best batch of songs since Dookie. “Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell,” he laments on the opening title tune. “My generation is zero.” From there, Christian and Gloria recount their crushed dreams, lack of direction, and eventual resignation over blasts of punk rock, sweet pop, and sweeping ballads. But there’s promise on the closing “See the Light”: “`It’s` never too late,” sings Armstrong on a ’70s-style rocker that sums up 21st Century Breakdown’s hopeful uncertainty in four-and-a-half tightly packed minutes. In other words, not much has changed in five years.
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