Green Day's highly anticipated eighth studio album '21st Century Breakdown' is their first since 2004's 12 million selling 'American Idiot'.

Perhaps feeling the pressure to follow in the footsteps of that award-winner, their new release is a concept album in three acts: 'Heroes and Cons', 'Charlatans and Saints' and 'Horseshoes and Handgrenades'.

Part of the appeal of Green Day since they formed in 1987 is their ability to step away from their peers and poppy rock love-ballad bands, favouring instead to rock out to various punk anthems. This time around, they're talking political conflict.

I could take or leave the title track but 'Know Your Enemy' and 'Horseshoes and Handgrenades' have moved into my mind and won't decamp, which I'm quite happy about. Sticking to Act I's theme of heroes and cons, 'Know Your Enemy' is a gentle tip of the hat to Rage against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name Of'.

There may be a well-earned Parental Advisory sticker slapped on the front but these are still safe, rebel songs – where the sticker only adds to the forbidden fruit appeal.

However the lyrics have grown up since 'American Idiot'. They're even more politically focused on 21st century anxieties. Songs such as 'Peacemaker', 'East Jesus Nowhere' and '21 guns' pull no punches with thought provoking, direct lyrics such as: "Do you know what's worth fighting for, when it's not worth dying for?"

The more I listened I liked the opening taster track 'Song of the Century' – its hard to avoid it as it appears on the album twice! Another catchy tune, of which there are also two versions, is !Viva La Gloria!, the first is particularly good.

The soft opener into the uplifting, rocking 'Before the Lobotomy' is inviting as is 'The Static Age' plus the heavy beats of 'Sea and Light'. However with eighteen tracks and an amount of repetition some tracks run into each other with little to distinguish them.

Although its easy to see that Green Day are constantly maturing, musically and lyrically, their fast catchy punk formula, perfected in their earlier albums such as 'Dookie' (1994), is still as relevant and memorable here as it first was 15 years ago.

'21st Century Breakdown' has certainly paved the way to Green Day's O2 gig in October.

Taragh Loughrey-Grant