Picks and Pans Review: Insomniac
updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST
The great success of this Bay Area trio's first album, 1994's Dookie, left younger punk fans delirious—and older ones dubious. The former, who have adopted punk's fashion, if not its anarchistic ways, loved the band's thrashing but ultimately pop-soaked hits like "When I Come Around." The latter, who lived through the late '70s punk rebellion, took a defiantly been-there-done-that position and scoffed at the notion that the three members of Green Day could be the Second Coming of the Sex Pistols. Green Day, meanwhile, sneered all the way to the bank with lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong's faux Brit accent and hard-to-decipher lyrics, and they seemed to get a good chuckle out of all the hoopla.
Now, on their more visceral follow-up, Green Day is intent on gaining punk credibility among hard-core denizens of the mosh pit—even at the risk of diminished record sales. With Insomniac, which has 14 songs clocking in at just under 33 minutes total, the band seems to be taking a page from Nirvana, who released the relatively inaccessible In Utero after their mega-selling Nevermind. A cut like "Geek Stink Breath," which fits perfectly here, serves as an example of unpolished crudeness that might not have made it onto Dookie. But more interesting is "Panic Song," with a rumbling bass-line introduction reminiscent of The Who. As in most good punk records, the pace is exhausting. There's also plenty of trendy, hard-edged attitude. But there's little of punk's subversive spirit. Young fans may not notice the difference, but to most aging ears, the Clash and the Buzzcocks will remain the keepers of the flame. (Reprise)