Written By: Elsie
In 1986, a young Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt decided that school was pointless and started a band which they somehow thought was a good idea to name Sweet Children. Thankfully, they changed the name, cut their ridiculously long hair, hired Tre Cool and thirty years later are known as the monumental American punk band, Green Day. Being a fan myself, I wanted to pay tribute to their thirty years of music, so here’s a review of one of my favourite albums of theirs, Insomniac, which I was supposed to put up last year. Enjoy!
Sadly, Green Day aren’t the band that everyone is talking about at this moment in time. Following the release of their latest albums !Uno!, !Dos! and !Tre! (released as a trio in 2012) the punk group have not graced fans with any new material bar a musical and a new documentary (Heart like a Hand Grenade), both based around the album that marked the height of their career, American Idiot. The modern day classic concept album is admittedly some of their best work and did allow them to achieve worldwide recognition after a period of being fairly inactive. However I do think that American Idiot has grown to over shadow their earlier albums which are, if anything, their best.
Last year (10th October to be exact) marked 20 years since Green Day’s fourth studio album Insomniac was unleashed on the public, following the huge success of their third album Dookie (the album that brought them into the public eye). The band felt immense pressure attempting to follow Dookie’s impact, but this evidently worked to their advantage. Insomniac is easily Green Day’s punkiest album and is therapeutic to say the least. In fact the only song on the album that doesn’t seem to be about self-loathing, confusion, anger and a general hate for pretty much everything is Westbound Sign (allegedly about Armstrong’s wife moving from California to Minnesota). Throughout the album, there is not one slow song to give a lull from all the thrashing instruments and vocals; each and every song provides a suitable headache as expected from a punk album.
One of the best things about Insomniac is the lyrics. Sure, Green Day’s more recent work may well provide a more ‘meaningful’ tone but the gritty cynicism of this album cannot be beat. After all, when you’re feeling a little frustrated, lyrics like ‘I must insist on being a pessimist’ and ‘I’ve got a knack for f***** everything up’ being crammed into two seconds of a verse by a shouting Billie Joe Armstrong really hit the spot. In fact, the songs are on the whole impeccably written and performed, as well as serving as a perfect soundtrack for a sleepless and angry youth.
The artwork, similar to their previous album, is made up of a cluster of strange characters and creatures including a disturbing dentist, a monkey riding a tricycle and three skulls representing each member of the band (the third of which you can only see by holding the record at a certain angle and staring into the flames). It’s a noisy cover to match a noisy album.
It’s difficult to choose a favourite song from Insomniac but if I’m honest, for me it’s got to be Jaded. The minute and a half track that explodes immediately after the build-up of Brain Stew is exciting and above all FAST, showing the talent of the three musicians. The lyrics are great too (if you can separate those vocals into words).
It’s easy to forget about Insomniac in Green Day’s history, falling through the cracks between Dookie and Nimrod and being alien to the generation who immediately associate Green Day with Boulevard of Broken Dreams… Regardless, this album is a snapshot of Green Day at the height of their game. Containing fan-favourites such as Geek Sink Breath and Brain Stew, the album definitely sums up the aggressive energy of the young trio. It is also a perfect example of why Green Day are just a great band. Admittedly their more recent work is a little more experimental, but essentially they really are just three great players singing about whatever the hell they want to sing about. And I love that.