Compare and Contrast

Green Day has a new album coming out on Tuesday next, called 21st Century Breakdown.  It’s the follow-up to their massively successful American Idiot.  Once again, they’ve gone with the rock opera theme, and I just read the review in Rolling Stone and it sounds awesome.  Green Day is an odd band for me.  I’ve always liked them, but I kind of expected them to fade into the sunset as they got older.  Their music is mostly young-sounding and I put it past them to be able to evolve.  Bands are always talking about how their sound needs to evolve and that they can’t keep making the same album over and over.  And to some extent that’s true.  But it’s a delicate balancing act to evolve, while still keeping your core fans and sticking to what you do best.  Green Day has balanced it perfectly, getting better with age.  Another band that has been able to stay fresh, and still awesome, is U2.  But unfortunately for all my favorite bands, it doesn’t always work like this.  Pearl Jam has been talking for a long time about how they want their sound to change as they grow and get older.  But unfortunately, they haven’t stuck to their guns.  Their music isn’t that fresh, and they’ve lost the hook they once had.  Their last few albums have been fairly disappointing, starting with Binaural.  And while I enjoy all of their work, I’m the first to admit, they are not what they once were.  Don’t get me wrong, the skills are still there, as evidenced by their killer live shows.  They just refuse to write the songs that would bring them back to their former greatness.  I don’t think they want that any more.

One other band that is treacherously close to this road is The Dave Matthews Band.  They hit their peak in the late 90’s with Before These Crowded Streets, and it’s been a bit downhill ever since.  First was the disastrous Everyday.  They scrapped a bunch of great songs in order to work with Glen Ballard, and it was not well-received, because it abandoned their strengths.  When the infamous Lillywhite sessions were leaked online, they scrambled to release them in studio form, but it was rushed and felt like that.  Then came Stand Up, their last studio album.  Again, a bit of a disappointment.  As they’ve “evolved” they have been determined to change producers, and this has given them a more erratic sound.  Now, just as though I love all of Pearl Jam’s work, I love everything DMB has come out with.  They’ve still got it live, as evidenced by the fact that they still sell out stadiums wherever they go.  But the jury is out whether they can recapture their former greatness.  The new album is out in June, so that will tell us the direction they are headed.  Can’t wait!

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