Review Summary: Green Day's underrated fourth album is lyrically bitter (and witty), and musically raw.
The mid-1990's was a golden age for sophomore releases (and third releases). The Smashing Pumpkins released both "Siamese Dream" in 1993 and "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" in 1995; Nirvana released "In Utero" in 1993; and Weezer released "Pinkerton" in 1996. Another album to add to this list would be Green Day's "Insomniac". Though Insomniac was actually Green Day's fourth album, it's their second on a major label, and their first after releasing their Diamond selling album "Dookie". Insomniac can be seen as Green Day's reaction to the instant fame they gained from "Dookie". "Insomniac", like most of the albums mentioned in the list above, is musically more raw than it's predecessor, and lyrically more bitter and dark.
The album starts with "Armatage Shanks", a short, punchy, simple pop-punk piece about singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong's pessimistic view of the world ("I must insist on being a pessimist/I'm a loner in a catastrophic mind"). The song is a great opener and sets up the mood of the album perfectly: straight-up pop-punk with bitter lyrics.
The bitter lyrics continue, with lines like "Destroyed, giving up the fight/Well, I know I'm not alright" in Stuck With Me, "Well, the world is a sick machine/Breeding a mass of ****" in Panic Song, and "There is no progress, evolution killed it all/I found my place in nowhere" in Jaded. You can sense the anger that the members of Green Day felt at the time (they were rejected by their old fans, who labeled them as "sellouts"). The whole album is like this, and it works well, especially with the raw sound of the music.
And that brings me to the music. The music is very raw for pop-punk, almost on the verge of becoming full-on punk. Nearly every song is comprised of three or four power chords played to a certain rhythm, which gets a little repetitive by the end of the album. Mike Dirnt's bass lines are superb, helping push the band forward. Tre Cool's drumming is, as always, manic but doesn't steal the spotlight from the others.
The pacing of the album is done well. Most of the songs are under three minutes, with the exception of "Panic Song" (3:35) and "Brain Stew" (3:13), so it's the perfect album for people with short attention spans. The whole album is only about 33 minutes long, so it makes for a fun, quick listen. The pacing starts off a little clunky, with the first few songs sounding relatively the same. However, the pacing picks up during the last half of the album, with more "variation" in the songs. All-in-all, the album feels shorter than 30 minutes. The albums ends abruptly with "Walking Contradiction", leaving me to want more.
On a side note, Winston Smith's artwork for the album is hilariously random. I had fun trying to look for all three skulls on the front cover art (I still can't find the hidden skull).
Overall, "Insomniac" is a good album for fans of Green Day and pop-punk, though it's far from perfect. The pacing in the beginning could be fixed, and some of the songs don't stand on their own as well as others ("Stuart and the Ave", "No Pride"). But it's a good album none-the-less. It's a very entertaining album, and a very well-written album lyrically. 4/5