When you think of opera, you tend to think of high-pitched falsetto singing, fat ladies and old people wearing monocles.
But nowadays, there’s a new kind of rock opera to contend with as evidenced by “21st Century Breakdown,” the latest release from Bay Area punks Green Day.
And no, there’s not a chunky gal in sight.
Of course, this isn’t entirely new terrain for Green Day.
The band first delved into something a bit more sweeping and expansive with their 2004 concept disc “American Idiot,” which revolved around the heart-wrenching tale of three characters: Jesus of Suburbia, Whatsername and St. Jimmy, names that seemed to come straight from the pages of some rock ‘n’ roll bible.
But with “21st Century Breakdown,” Green Day has blown “American Idiot” straight out of the water.
The album is divided into three acts: “Heroes and Cons,” “Charlatans and Saints” and “Horseshoes and Handgrenades.”
“Breakdown” tells the story of two punk lovers, Christian and Gloria, living in the aftermath of post-Bush America. They’ve been betrayed by everything around them, the church (“East Jesus Nowhere”), the state (“21 Guns”), and every role model they ever put their hope in.
All they have is each other, with Christian’s self-destructive personality and Gloria’s ideals and hope balancing the team.
All over the album, Green Day combines its old punk rock music lifestyle with a newfound passion for classic rock influences. The musical styles range from flamenco guitar — “Peacemaker” — to tunes reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie soundtrack — “Viva La Gloria (Little Girl).”
Probably the most surprising, yet pleasing aspects of the new album are the ballads.
If you could tweak Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice to sound like he was singing a Richard Marx love song, you’d have “Last Night on Earth.”
But the hatred-driven hard-core punk tracks are the ones most in the spotlight.
First single “Know Your Enemy” is an attack on big government, while the title track narrates the band’s three decades of American contemporary life from Nixon to George W. Bush. (“Born into Nixon/ I was raised in life/ A welfare child.”)
Just like the issues tackled on “American Idiot,” Green Day’s main focus is finally getting out of an “eight-year nightmare” of the Bush presidency.
The trio criticizes the hype and the trust the American people put into their former president. (“Mass hysteria/ Red alert is the color of panic/ Elevated to the point of static.”)
But they also take on the big issue of religion. (“Join the choir/ We will be singing in the church of wishful thinking.”)
Overall, “21st Century Breakdown” provides an escape outlet for anyone needing a rebellion of their own, whether it’s against government, religious conformity or even traditional opera.R-Jeneration