If there’s one band that have managed to successfully capture the essence of being a teenager and then monetise it, it’s Green Day; almost every child born after 1980 will have gone through a ‘Green Day Phase’ at some point, if only to annoy their parents. Even though their output from the time of 21 Guns has drifted significantly from their punk roots the band’s later, more radio-friendly work allowed them to access a new generation of kids who had outgrown pop music but weren’t quite ready for Metallica.
Taken from their second ‘rock opera’ album 21st Century Breakdown (2009), ’21 Guns’ finds Green Day setting their sights on a stadium-sized ballad – the band had achieved chart success with this formula before with ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ (from 2004’s American Idiot).
Whilst fans of their earlier work might have been shocked by the shift from 2-minute bursts of punk vitriol to 5-minute power ballads, Green Day’s new melodic direction earned them critical acclaim (many reviews pointed out the similarity between the choruses of ’21 Guns’ and Mott The Hoople’s 1972 glam rock hit ‘All The Young Dudes’), chart success and even a Grammy nomination.
Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt keeps it simple on ’21 Guns’, adopting a minimalist, root note orientated approach that supports the song’s radio-friendly ballad atmosphere. During the verses, Mike locks in with Tre Cool’s kick drum, leaving plenty of room in the mix for the vocals.
Not only is his playing less frantic than on older Green Day bass favourites (such as ‘Longview’, ‘When I Come Around’ and ‘Basket Case’), but his tone also has mellowed over the years – the bass sound of ’21 Guns’ is far less aggressive than his previous output, with only a hit of ‘bite’ from his picked p-bass.