Sunday, August 9, 2009

Green Day's New Record Is A Masterpiece

I always like to experience a new record on a long car ride listening from top to bottom. It's the only time where I have no distractions to listen to every song in its entirety. Some of my favorite records I heard for the first time in my car driving somewhere with my wife. I listened to them several times on the drive really getting to focus on the music. Some of these are Chalk Farm "Notwithstanding" - Stroke 9 "Nasty Little Thoughts" - U2 "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" - Dave Mathews "Under The Table And Dreaming" - Matchbox 20 "Yourself Or Someone Like You".

A couple of years ago I was driving over to Birmingham and my wife bought the the new Green Day record "American Idiot" for our drive. I was a fan of the band and really liked "Dookie" but I hadn't followed them for a while. I had read some great things about their new concept album and wanted to check it out. I was blown away how they made that concept record and had a new found respect for them.

This week when driving back from Tampa and my wife and I had to get the new Green Day CD "21st Century Breakdown". I was excited to hear this record for so many reasons. The band co -produced the new record with Butch Vig. Butch is the drummer for Garbage and he is also a huge record producer who I greatly respect his work. He has produced Nirvana'a "Nevermind" and Smashing Pumpkins "Siamese Dream" so I was expecting a lot from him on this record and I was not let down. I will get more in depth about the production later.

Green Day took their concept record idea to a whole new level. So much thought went into this record I don't know where to begin. The CD is broken down into 3 acts with a general theme for each act. Many of the songs are multi movements with different feels and tempos. The band really stretches out from their comfort zone and covers many musical styles that they are not known for.

"Before The Lobotomy" is one of my favorites because it starts with this 12 string guitar or a nylon string and Billie Joe singing very intimately. The song then goes into a 7/4 time signature with this cool guitar riff sounding like "Rush". I truly love this part of the song and listened to it many times. They then do a huge tempo slow down and work back to the intimate beginning but this time they use big guitars.

The song "21 1st Century Breakdown" starts with something reminiscent of the band "Big Star". It is a classic sounding pop tune with a great retro sound. It then morphs into something that sounds like the Green Day song "Holiday" with a metal edge. The band then breaks down into something that sounds like the rock anthem Free Bird.

"Know Your Enemy" just freakin' rocks. This is a great energetic rock song that will be awesome live. It is right down the middle of the road for Green Day.

"Last Night On Earth" could have been on a Beatles record. The chord changes and the production sound like something McCartney and Lennon would have written. It is great to hear the band really go places that we have not heard before. There is latin sounding song on the record as well as vaudeville sounding song.

"21 Guns" is the big single on this record. It is a great song in the power rock ballad but for me it is hard to follow up their "Wake Me Up When September Ends". I wish I wrote "Wake Me Up When September Ends" because it was perfect in every way so anything else they write in that style I will always compare it to "Wake Me Up When September Ends".

The production on this record is definitely in my top 3 favorite of all time. Butch Vig gets amazing tones on the drums and guitars and Chris Lord-Alge just blows me away with the mixes. I think Butch really worked well with Green Day and I don't know if it was him or the band that decided to push their comfort zone but it works. I like all the squashed compression and the radio sounding intros and endings. Everything is big and crystal clear.

Chris Lord-Alge did a wonderful job at mixing the whole record. It rocks really hard but there are also great moments of intimacy. I cannot say enough about the drum and guitar sounds. I come to expect that from Chris and his brother Tom. They are the masters of allowing you to hear every little instrument on a song without comprising the overall sound of the track. Chris and his brother Tom are probably the best 2 mixers in the world especially when they actually get a chance to mix a whole record. Most of their time is spent mixing every song on the radio but occasionally they get to mix a whole record.

I highly recommend this record so go buy it.


  1. I also love this album, particularly the production... but it is missing the wham-bam centerpiece song. Most albums seem to only have that 1 great song, and the rest is filler. This one is epic start to finish, but falls short of American Idiot because there isn't that 1 stand out track (like Jesus of Suburbia was for American Idiot).
    By the way... when you come to Boston in October I hope you guys play "Sail Away" which to me transformed Bam! from a b-sides record to a record with one of your best songs... a true keeper.

  2. C

    I would agree with you that there might have been better radio songs on American Idiot but I would not call Jesus of Suburbia one of them. I don't even think it was a radio single. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, American Idiot, Wake Me Up When September Ends and Holiday were the singles that drove the record. But I would not be surprised in February if 21st Century Breakdown wins the Grammy for Best Album of the year. It is more a cohesive body of work than single driven material which in todays society is very hard to get people to accept. The iTunes generation is all about the singles and I think that Green Day again was sending another underlying message in this album. That great bands make albums not 1 track so a label can just push a radio song. The labels today will not even put out albums unless it has a radio smash in their minds. So I think they were thinking this as well when they wrote this album.

  3. Mark,

    Thanks for giving this record a good review. I am a huge fan of both Sister Hazel and Green Day, and I think its great that one of my favorite bands thinks so highly of Another Band that I love. I thought that 21st Century Breakdown was a great album as well, but I dissagree with you on the album not having a "Centerpiece." Personally I really thought that East Jesus Nowhere really caught the feel of the record, or even 21st Century Breakdown. Both of those songs capture the essence of that the album is supposed to be about, with "East Jesus Nowhere" representing the ferocity and power that the album is supposed to convey. I also think that 21st Century Breakdown Fits as almost an "overture" to the album, to use a classical music term, because in both the lyrics, music and style it gives you an idea at What Green Day is saying with this Album. I will definitely be surprised if this album doesn't win Album of the year at the Grammys, or at the least it should win Best Rock or alternative album.

    I think that green day has come a long way since the days of "Dookie," and while some people are criticizing Green Day for stretching their roots, I think its a great thing that they've done. They've successfully Channeled the Power of Classic Rock Bands and the Ferocity of Punk all in one Package.

  4. Mark,
    I completely agree that it is refreshing to see a true "album"- start to finish, the cohesiveness, the lack of filler, the art.
    My point on Jesus of Suburbia was not that it was a single or smash hit- but that it was such an epic song it seemed to capture the entire album for me. All of American Idiot was fantastic... and Jesus of Suburbia was the high point, the real exclamation point. I'm not sure which track on 21st Century is that killer song just yet.
    By the way, speaking of great albums of 2009... have you checked out Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King from Dave Matthews yet? Obviously they put out some great albums in the 90s, but this may be their best yet (or at least in a decade). Another great album track 1 (with the Leroi Moore sax solo) through track 13, and while it is unlikely to be a radio hit, the track Time Bomb (track 11) is one of the most ferocious tunes I've heard in some time. Starting slow... building up... then exploding...

  5. I think Natescholz and C and myself are all on the same page. We each just have a slightly different interpretation of what we each think is an albums centerpiece. All 3 of us think 21st Century Breakdown is a great record at that it should definitely win some grammy's in February.

    To me the centerpiece of an album is the song that people remember most and can tell you what album it came from. Lets take a look at 2 big records from the late 90's that had multiple singles and each sold over 10 million copies.

    Matchbox 20 "Yourself Or Someone Like You" had 5 radio singles but the song that every knows from that record is "Push"

    Creed "My Own Prison" had 4 radio singles but the the song on that album that people will not forget is "My Own Prison"

    But I totally get where you guys are both coming from and that each person can have a song that they relate to that might be that centerpiece on a record.

    I think on our Fortress record if you did a survey you might find it split pretty evenly between "Champagne High" and "Change Your Mind"

    Right now I am really thinking that "21 Guns" is going to be that song that people are going to connect with but that just my opinion. The music junky in me really likes "Before The Lobotomy" but I know it is not a radio friendly song.

    I have not checked out the new DMB album yet so I will have to pick it up. Our bus driver used to work for them and actually used to be Leroi's driver. He told me a while back that there were going to be some good and interesting things on this record.

  6. I’m totally with you on the Green Day album. I added to my iPod a few weeks ago, mostly because of the Know Your Enemy track, and fell in love with the whole album. Now both Tricia and I play it all the time. I used to think they were bubblegum punk for the masses, but their last two albums have completely converted me. They are gifted and provocative.

  7. Good to hear from you Roger. Well now if we can get you on twitter you will be technologically connected. Green Day definitely have reinvented themselves over the last 2 albums but still stay true to where they came from. They just have gotten better in every aspect and it comes out on American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown

  8. It's sad that a Green Day album is being discussed by the drummer of an adult contemporary band. It goes to show that Green Day lost their punk sound and attitude a long time ago (before the Dookie album) and became a pop-punk radio band.

  9. Really!!

    It's pretty sad that you make the stereotype that since I play drums in what you perceive an "adult contemporary band" that I only listen to and own music from that genre. I think if you went through my 1000 disk CD collection you would be quite surprised what I like.

    There is such an extreme mix a music that I could host a radio program with my music that could be Hip Hop, R&B, Punk, Rock, Pop, Classic Rock, Classical and Jazz.

    I bet you didn't even know that you punk band drummer Tre Cool listens to jazz and actually warms up to it before a Green Day show.

    I would certainly agree that Green Day's sound has progressed forward over the years to something more polished which I like. You could say the same thing about Pearl Jam that their records don't sound as gritty as when grunge hit.

    But to say Green Day lost their attitude is absurd! Go listen to and read the lyrics from the last 2 records.

    I personally get upset when people get mad that there little underground band becomes a commercial success. This happened to Dave Mathews, Metallica, Green Day and others and frankly it is all a bunch of crap. Just because your music gets on the radio and millions of people can relate to your art and what you are saying that doesn't mean you are any less of an artist.

    If you happen to ever be in San Francisco go ahead and make a trip to the Amoeba record store in the Haight -Ashbury area. This place has the largest diverse collection of music. Buy some different music, broaden your horizons and just listen.

    There doesn't need to be any boundaries on what people like or dislike.

  10. I am a fan of both "underground" and "mainstream" bands, and absolutely hate when fellow fans of an unsung band get mad their favorite band "sold out" and got popular. It's a bit of a pet peeve for me because, shouldn't we want our favorite band to be successful?!? Not just so they earn a good living, but also so they gain exposure and more people get to enjoy their music. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to work with higher quality equipment, better producers, etc. I tend to enjoy seeing bands break through. When I was in college, I was classmates with the fellows who then formed Dispatch. They became popular with us friends, then other college kids, and (on a mini reunion tour) sold out 4 nights at Madison Square Garden a year ago, 12 years after those frat house parties at Middlebury College. But I wasn't sad or thinking they sold out- it was great for them. Likewise, it's great that Green Day is growing and being listened to by more people. Anyways, that was my rant on "selling out".

    On a side note, responding to one of Mark's earlier posts, I would agree that Change Your Mind or Champagne High are the centerpieces of Fortress. But do you think the centerpiece is always the biggest single? I know that is the most known song, but is it the one the band also thinks of first and foremost with respect to the album? For example, on an album like Somewhere More Familiar, given the nature of All For You, it is clearly the dominant song off the album. But what about other albums, which had singles, but not of the same commercial success as All For You? I'd argue that Life Got In The Way into Everybody is the focal point of Chasing Daylight, rather than Your Mistake. Likewise, I'd say Lay It Down is the most memorable track from Lift, not the cover of Just What I Needed or World Inside my Head (the singles). Then again, Mandolin Moon truly is the masterpiece on Absolutely. It's interesting how certain songs can grow over time, mainly because fans love them and they come across great live, and become the most memorable songs on an album, even if they were never a single or been hit when the album was first released.

  11. Obviously your not very confident in your comments if you have to post anonymously but just wanted to chime in as say that I agree 100% with Mark and C. I have two little girls who can sing just about every Sister Hazel song and they agree with you C "Mandolin Moon truly is the masterpiece on Absolutely" Keep up the good work guys!!

  12. I wasn't much of a fan of "American Idiot" so I'm not entirely sure I will give this a shot.

    In anycase I would argue with C that "Another Me" is the most memorable track off of "Lift" but then again music is such a subjective subject that what one finds as the most memorable song from an artist or on an album will probably vary widely anyway.

  13. Scotty, thanks for the point out on Another Me. Lift is probably the album I listen to the least [for me it's Chasing Daylight, Bam Vol. 1 and Somewhere More Familiar on repeat!!] but I just checked out Another Me again for the first time in a while- great song.
    I'd be interested to know what one song from each SHazel album Mark considers the finest, most memorable song...
    And I don't know I show up as "C"- it's Corey... I'll keep trying on that one

  14. Corey

    Thanks for all your comments. I would have to say that it is very hard to pick a favorite song off each album. So many factors go into that decision. Am I picking from how I liked the studio version of the song or am I picking which songs I like to play live. Plus I like them all so it makes it difficult when people ask us to pick our favorites. But just for fun I will make you these 2 lists. One song from each record that I like playing live and one song from each record that I like the recording.

    Songs I Like To Play Live

    We'll Find It - somewhere more familiar
    Champagne High - Fortress
    Sword And Shield - Chasing Daylight
    World Inside My Head - Lift
    Shame - Absolutely
    Walls And Cannonballs - maybe (to early to tell) - Release

    Songs I Liked The Recording

    Looked To The Children - somewhere more familiar
    Save Me & Give In -Fortress
    Your Mistake - Chasing Daylight
    Lay It Down - Lift
    Truth Is - Absolutely
    Release - Better Way

    There you go. Talk to you later