21st Century Breakdown
Almost everyone seemed surprised when, in 2004, the Green Day punks released American Idiot, a scathing indictment of the US’s way of life. Sure, guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool have matured, but have they changed? Dookie, the trio’s 1994 breakout smash, set a template with epic songs and era-defining one-liners; now the melodramatic fools are tapping into the zeitgeist once more on 21st Century Breakdown, an operatic, lengthy and cynical diatribe.
The album tells the story of a couple, Christian and Gloria, while also urging protest, forecasting the downfall of America and railing against religious fanaticism. Broken into three parts, the disc kicks off with the title track, a condemning, circular anti-anthem. Armstrong screams, ‘I once was lost but never was found’, tearing at the foundational optimism of the ‘Amazing Grace’ age.
The anarchic concepts soar on power-chord escalations, but 21st Century also trips into sanctimony: on the commercialism taunt ‘The Static Age’, Armstrong sings of a ‘Coca-Cola execution,’ a concept hard to swallow given that the band premiered ‘Know Your Enemy’, the disc’s first single, during a huge basketball game. How antiestablishment! Green Day’s massiveness – commercially, if not sonically – will no doubt provide for more hypocritical moves, but it’s hard to be sceptical: having captured the ears of a global audience, at least this rock band is saying something.
Colin St John
Available in stores.
There are two kinds of horror flicks. Going for shock, the first kind throws cats, guts, blood and machetes at the camera. Then there’s the moody type, in which eerie black-lipped children in bowl cuts stare ominously at their parents, and the mere dead hiss of television static can make you shiver. On their first album, 2007’s Strange House, British garage goths The Horrors went the B-movie route. Frontman Faris Rotter (né Badwan) shouted ‘bwah-ha-ha-ha’ laughs over shrill organ stabs, steely jugular-slashing guitar and shambling, zombie-stepping bass lines. Hell, there was even a song called ‘Jack The Ripper.’
Fortunately the follow-up, Primary Colours, takes off the Halloween makeup and looks for the holiday’s autumnal beauty. Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, who steered his own band into a dark German forest, produces here, and the backdrops are fantastic. The keyboards have vaporised from the carnival kookiness of old into droning, ethereal wisps (‘Who Can Say’ and ‘Scarlet Fields’); distortion no longer hacks at the ears but rather wavers like green light through a fog. It’s all gone a bit more romantic, old world and shoegazing.
One big problem remains: the hulking, cartoony presence of Rotter, whose Bela Lugosi baritone feels a little too Scooby-Doo for these shining tracks. Tragically, with the singer stuck holding the old script, what could’ve been a solid rock ’n’ roll record is merely an archetypal genre exercise for the black-clad.
Available on www.7digital.com or to order in stores.