Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise)

Upon Green Day's return, we find them comparing brainwashed youths to sodomized dogs, criticizing the capitalist media that helped make them millionaires, and dropping the "N"-word. Oh, don't worry, liberal punkers; they insert that nasty word into the mouth of a neo-conservative false prophet of the class war.

21st Century Breakdown is framed as an arch response to the post-Bush landscape of contemporary America, proving that Green Day has never lost their genre's tradition of snide social critique; it makes for a lovely addendum to the band's origin myth of a young, doe-eyed Billie Joe attending Operation Ivy shows and saying, "I want to start a band like that." The religious right is squarely in their crosshairs on tracks like "East Jesus Nowhere" and "Christian's Inferno," in which BJ proclaims, "I am the atom bomb / I am your chosen one," invoking himself as a punk rock Antichrist. Anthemic gems like the lead single "Know Your Enemy" and "Last of the American Girls" singe, even when the lyrics rely heavily on clichéd platitudes about nonconformity.

Green Day has changed remarkably little over the last 20 years. Maybe the most overt difference is the addition of tepid rock ballads to their repertoire (21st Century Breakdown delivers on that front with "Last Night on Earth," "Restless Heart Syndrome" and "21 Guns"). Here's an instance where parity doesn't preclude quality: Green Day remains a band you can count on, and their latest doesn't disappoint. It's a sprawling, potty-mouthed, pop-punk masterpiece about the début de siècle.