Green Day – Song of the Century – 21st Century Breakdown *
Sing us a song of the century… That’s louder than bombs … And eternity
Do we realize that it’s the 21st Century? Sometimes I wonder. The 21st fucking century, and yet humans are still arguing and fighting over the same issues spawned at the start of the 20th: land, privilege, sex, God and money.
Honestly, I can’t remember a time in my life when there’s never been tension in the air. I’ve been tense since the second I was born. (If you’ve not been tense for the past 45 years, don’t worry, I’ve been tense for you.) This last election in the States wiped me out so much that I’ve decided to take a break from politics, the universe, and almost everything… except work and Green Day. I am forgoing television for a few months and haven’t watched for about a week now, which is saying something for me. I’m listening to music and trying to think. I’ve been listening to rather loud music, but still, the music frees my eyes from concentrating on tiny moving pictures. I’ll keep up with the world as much as I can, but really, the world can go to hell in a handbasket for all I care right now. I’m sitting here in the ghetto that I love, in my new Brooklyn home with the amazing view of Manhattan. Big sky. I am as happy as a clam. Ahh. The coming of the second decade of the century is so far soaring above bombs and eternity for me. Aren’t I lucky?
As the Buddha says, all every one wants is to be happy. I would add to that: and to party.
Sing Us a Song of the Century… that’s louder than bombs and eternity.
What a beautiful way to start a lullaby. The song of the century should be so spectacular that it drowns out all ways and means of destruction. When I first listened to 21st Century Breakdown, I was surprised that the album began with such a sweet song as if sung in a newborn’s ear and captured on a Victrola. The lyric begins with an earnest hope quickly deafened by metaphoric bombs and projecting the future. Eternity is a hell of a long way away; everything comes down to the present.
I suppose I should not be surprised that the 21st Century reminds me of all the centuries that have gone before it. Although I studied history in college, I’m not much of an academic but from lessons learned and books read, the past and the present just spin around again and nothing really changes. Sounds finally captured through technology and heard at the start of the 20th Century — hand-cranked — are the same tales of progress, earnestness, hope against despair, madness, war, and peace that are present in our current world of bytes and bits.
The era of static and contraband… That’s leading us to the promised land
A major theme of 21st Century Breakdown echoes around static, presumably the white noise of television and electronics and the heat of popularity, fame and status. Stolen images and stolen time, seconds ticking, adding up to hours and years, and then poof, you’re gone. Gone off into that magical hereafter. Ah yes, magical, indeed. Today is ignored while tomorrow is constantly dreamed about, heaven. It’s always about heaven, either on Earth or the great beyond. It’s always about reaching for something that you cannot see, and may not want when you finally adjust your eyes.
Tell us a story that’s by candlelight… Waging a war and losing the fight
Have you ever listened to a story while a candle flickers across the bedroom wall? Real, living light, not the artificial brightness surging through our electrical grid. Sure, it’s bad for the eyes, but imagine, huddled under your covers, with your father close to you. He’s spinning tales of Br’er Rabbit or a frightening Grimms Fairy Tale. The flickers across your wall create moving pictures — there’s the Witch tricking the children! — there’s the children being baked! — lesson learned, don’t go off into the forest by yourself! — childhood stories of fear and triumph, war and death, peace and love; the same themes from the 20th to the 21st. The means of communication may change, but the human heart rarely does. Nothing changes and children still grow up learning war is right, even if you have to fight the same types of wars over and over again for land, privilege, sex, God and money.
They’re playing the song of the century… Of panic and promise and prosperity
There goes that song again… dawning of a new era… calling…don’t let it catch you falling… ready or not at all… the 21st Century is ‘hear’ and the Victrola cranks out its old themes of stock market crashes, something for nothing, you too can have it all!
Tell me a story into that goodnight… Sing us a song for me
So tell me a story long into the dark hours, were I can dream of a world that doesn’t chase me with its fears and desires. A world where the Bill of Rights has a clause to “Let the People Party,” and we all earnestly grab the time to take care of each other, just like Billie Joe Armstrong takes the time to care for a drunken fan who’s about to get booted by bringing him onstage, telling him to calm the fuck down, we’re all here to party… why fight?*
This past Saturday, I was in my old place packing up during a hellacious street party on my block, complete with wall of sound speakers. After the sixth hour of salsa across the street mixed with heart-shattering beats up the street, both played at volume 11, I thought my brain would bleed. The Victrola has been replaced with massive woofers, where the sounds of panic and promise and prosperity come at you in mega-death decibels. At the end of the night, police helicopters started churning overhead. When that happens in New York (or anywhere for that matter), you know that something has gone wrong. Two people, aged 19 and 17, died half a block away from me due to gunshot wounds to the head. Their young song of the century is over now. I wonder what bedtime stories they learned?
Yes, if only the Bill of Rights possessed a “Let the People Party” clause to it. Who the hell am I kidding? We’d find some way to fuck that up, too.
*All lyrics by Green Day