Whereas the blunt force of Green Day's 2004 American Idiot proved a powerful, provocative state of the union address, its follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown, both thrives in and succumbs to the chaos and confusion left in the wake of the Bush regime. Essentially an hourlong classic punk spectacle, the Oakland pranksters' eighth LP cements their most polarizing work to date, recalling an updated version of the Ramones' End of the Century, laced with the theatrical ornamentation of the Who and tangents into Californian pop balladry ("Before the Lobotomy," "Restless Heart Syndrome"), visceral garage-rock ("Horseshoes and Handgrenades"), militant surf marches ("East Jesus Nowhere"), and even mariachi flourishes ("Peacemaker"). Neither the storyline nor Butch Vig's production completely succeeds in pulling the whole thing together, overcompensating with size over substance. While the third and final act charges toward resolution with supreme fury, 21st Century Breakdown ultimately gets caught between panic and fledging promise.
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