Originally Published: June 1, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

I don’t cover a lot of music what with all the comics, video games, and movies that are constantly drawing my attention. But when Green Day releases their highly anticipated 8th studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, you have to give it the focus it’s due. Owning all seven of their previous studio albums, I also readily admit I have been a Green Day fan for a long time.

Much like their previous album, American Idiot, a rock opera in how it depicts the story of a fictional character dubbed “St. Jimmy”, 21st Century Breakdown does much of the same following the story of two star-crossed teens, Christian and Gloria. Whereas American Idiot was one continuous story with several marathon-like songs broken into multiple parts, this album is plainly broken down into three acts, each with a different theme that progresses the story of Christian and Gloria.

The fact that Green Day has evolved into this story-telling, rock opera producing machine has them drawing comparisons to legendary bands like The Who and has some misguided people thinking we’ll see a Green Day inspired play on Broadway soon.

I’m not here to argue that Green Day has solidified their place in the heart of American music, they did that long ago, I’m here to say that 21st Century Breakdown isn’t as good as people are making it out to be. It’s a good album, but if you didn’t tell me this was Green Day, I don’t know if I would have recognized them.

Some would say that they are simply evolving and that is the mark of a truly great band. I would argue that they already went through this metamorphosis with their last album, American Idiot. 21st Century Breakdown sounds forced and like a continuation of the same teen angst and social disorder themes that they bottled in American Idiot, but following different characters. If anything, there is devolution here for producing an inferior product to American Idiot.

Many are calling this their greatest album ever. From speaking with many other Green Day fans recently, when the conversation turned to a debate of Green Day’s greatest album, 21st Century Breakdown is nowhere in the picture. The debate has always and is still only between Dookie, Nimrod, and American Idiot.

The main reason for this has been that things are usually judged on your initial reaction. The initial reaction for many of us has been that 21st Century Breakdown was okay. Only after repeatedly listening to the album did it grow on us to even be considered amongst Green Day’s better albums, never mind the best of the best.

Even the singles off the album so far, 21 Guns and Know Your Enemy, although solid, are nowhere near as powerful as the first singles off previous albums. And you know Green Day has missed the mark when the singles are being used as beds for “Sportscenter Top 10” highlight reels. I don’t think Know Your Enemy is talking about the Yankees and Red Sox.

It’s great to finally see a new Green Day album, and I’m sure most people’s initial reaction has been so positive simply because Green Day fans have waited so long for a follow up to American Idiot. Unfortunately, when you really analyze the product, it isn’t anything new or special and shouldn’t be put at the same level as Dookie, Nimrod, or American Idiot; those are albums that marked true evolutions in the band while providing unforgettable hits. 21st Century Breakdown is a solid album that grows on you the more you listen to it, but in the end is nowhere near the level we’ve come to expect from Green Day.

A great test for an album is if you would give someone who has never heard of the band before that album to give them a solid representation of the band, their music, and what they are all about. 21st Century Breakdown is not one of those albums and should only be bought by true Green Day fans who can forgive the band for a sub-par product.

-Ray Carsillo