Five years after "American Idiot" took Green Day to new heights of superstardom, the group is nearly finished with its next album, "21st Century Breakdown." Billboard previewed six songs from the project, due in May from Warner Bros.
The Butch Vig-produced "21st Century Breakdown" is split into three acts: "Heroes and Cons," "Charlatans & Saints" and "Horseshoes & Handgrenades." While not as overtly political as "American Idiot," the material sampled by Billboard is chock full of social commentary about religion, war and love.
The album blasts off with its title track, an ultra-melodic midtempo rocker with Green Day's familiar three-chord verses and Billie Joe Armstrong's summation of society: "My generation is zero / I'd never make it as a working class hero."
The song then moves it way through a Who-style breakdown with sustained guitar blasts and thumping drums, before settling on a slower, classic rock-inspired outtro.
The next song, "Know Your Enemy" is a similarly sturdy, catchy rock cut demanding "revolution," while "Before the Lobotomy" begins as an acoustic wash before shifting into a heavy three-chord riff and lyrics dripping with antipathy: "I'm not stoned / I'm just f*cked up."
"March of the Dogs" finds Green Day at its most structurally complex, weaving numerous short different ideas into a grand final product. Atop vicious riffing, this screed appears to compare religion to "a dog that's been sodomized," and Armstrong also proclaims, "the sirens of decay will infiltrate the faith fanatic."
"Restless Heart Syndrome" trots out a Green Day first: Armstrong singing in falsetto. What begins as a midtempo, piano-driven rock tune morphs around the three-minute mark into a crunchy, descending four-chord progression that should shake the rafters live.
The last song previewed by Billboard, "21 Guns," also blends acoustic strumming with thicker choruses and a chiming, atmospheric passage.
Green Day will begin a North American arena tour in early July, to be followed by shows in Europe. In 2010, the band will hit Japan, Southeast Asia and South America before returning for more North American shows.