Insomniac (Green Day album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||October 10, 1995|
|Recorded||December 1994 – May 1995|
|Studio||Hyde Street Studios, San Francisco, California|
|Green Day chronology|
|Singles from Insomniac|
Insomniac is the fourth studio album by American rock band Green Day, released on October 10, 1995 by Reprise Records. Recorded as the follow-up to the band's multi-platinum breakthrough Dookie, Insomniac featured a heavier sound and bleaker lyrics than its predecessor. Lyrically, the album discusses themes such as alienation, anxiety, boredom, and drug use. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's songwriting and sarcastic sense of humor. Four songs were released as singles, "Geek Stink Breath", "Stuck with Me", "Brain Stew / Jaded", and "Walking Contradiction".
Though it peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified 2× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1996, Insomniac did not have the sales endurance of its predecessor Dookie, largely due to its slightly darker lyrical tone and its heavier and more abrasive sound. Insomniac has sold over 2,100,000 copies in the United States according to Billboard as of 2012. The album was reissued on vinyl on May 12, 2009.
Much of the album was written in a small, Cape Cod-style home in East Oakland, California. After the release of Dookie, Tre Cool's wife gave birth to their first child, and Cool noted that "I can hit the drums harder than I ever thought I could. Having a kid is trying – you have to watch your temper all the time – but it enhances the experience of playing in the band." Eschewing the typical punk rock ethos of creating cheap, low-quality recordings, the band strove to perfect its sound on the record. Cool experimented with different cymbal sounds on nearly every song on the album, while Armstrong and producer Rob Cavallo developed the ritual of lining up several guitar amps and testing each one to achieve the desired sound. Much of Insomniac was recorded in short, high-energy bursts. Before takes, the group would drink excessive amounts of coffee, "squeeze every last drop of energy" into the recordings, and then rest immediately afterward.
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly described Insomniac as "14 slices of hearty anarchy, played with a follow-the-bouncing-spitball compactness and vigor." The album features bleaker, more pessimistic lyrics than those of Dookie. However, Rolling Stone noted that the lyrics exemplify "cold-eyed realism, not trendy nihilism or bleak despair." Armstrong's vocal delivery on the album has been described as an "adenoidal vocal whine."
The album begins with "Armatage Shanks", which explores disassociation and the lack of identity, with Armstrong feeling "Stranded / Lost inside myself." "Brat" takes the perspective of a "snot-nosed slob without a job" waiting for his parents to die in order to receive his inheritance. "Stuck With Me", the second single of the album, talks about being too weak and too much of a push-over to stand up for yourself. "Geek Stink Breath", the first single, discusses methamphetamine use, including side effects such as the formation of facial scabs and an accelerated pulse. "No Pride" talks about a narrator at the bottom of society, who doesn't mind being there, since he has no pride. The angst-ridden "Bab's Uvula Who?" begins with the lyric, "I've got a knack for fucking everything up," backed by a "brutal, unforgiving wall of sound." It is followed by "86", which discusses the rejection Green Day faced from the 924 Gilman Street music club in Berkeley after the band's rise to fame in 1994. "Panic Song" exhibits a pessimistic view of the world, describing it as "a sick machine breeding a mass of shit." It begins with a "pummeling" instrumental introduction that has been compared to The Who. It was inspired by Armstrong's panic attacks caused by his anxiety issues and bassist Mike Dirnt's panic attacks he has suffered as a result of being born with an enlarged mitral valve in his heart. "Brain Stew", the third single off of Insomniac talks about insomnia and is quickly followed by "Jaded". "Westbound Sign" is about Billie's wife, Adrienne, moving to California with him. "Tight Wad Hill" talks about how the activities teens once did (like getting high) is no longer fun anymore. The final track, "Walking Contradiction" was described as an anthem for "anyone who has chafed against the bounds of the demographically correct, computer-coded, image-conscious mid-'90s."
Title and artwork
Before the name Insomniac was decided on, the band considered naming the album Jesus Christ Supermarket and Tight Wad Hill. Insomniac was originally the working title song for "Brain Stew" on demo. After visiting collage artist Winston Smith for the album cover, Billie Joe Armstrong asked him how he managed to make such intricate pieces in such short times. Smith answered: "It's easy for me. I am an insomniac." Armstrong himself has said that the album title comes from his own insomnia, after having been woken up frequently during the night due to his son’s screams. Armstrong also mentions his insomnia in the song "Brain Stew".
The collage on the album cover was created by Smith and is called God Told Me to Skin You Alive, a reference to the Dead Kennedys song "I Kill Children". The cover art contains an image (the dentist) that was originally used in a collage featured in the inside cover art of Dead Kennedys' album Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982). Smith knew drummer Tré Cool from Green Day's time at Lookout! Records and told Cool that if he ever needed album artwork that he should call him. The cover art features several hidden images: a naked woman, three fairies, and several other ghostly faces in the flames. There are also three skulls on the entire album cover and back, one for each member of Green Day. One of the skulls requires the viewer to tilt the piece at an angle. The hidden skull is taken from Hans Holbein's 1533 painting The Ambassadors. Green Day's version, however, is slightly different from the original, with the woman holding Armstrong's iconic Sonic Blue Fernandes imitation Stratocaster rather than an acoustic guitar.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||A−|
Insomniac did not have the big sales or airplay as the singles from Dookie, but it was generally well received by critics. It earned three and a half out of five stars from Rolling Stone, which said "In punk the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets".
Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B with particular praise for Billie Joe Armstrong, stating that: "Fans needn't worry about Armstrong, a new father, rhapsodizing over the joys of changing diapers or whining about being a wealthy rock star. Once more, the songs relate the travails of a pathetic, self-loathing goofball whose sense of self-worth is continually reduced to rubble by sundry jerks, authority figures, and cultural elitists."
However, Green Day was slightly criticized for not progressing as much as their predecessors. Entertainment Weekly stated that: "Insomniac does make you wonder about Green Day's growth, though. Between albums one and four, The Clash, to take an old-school example, branched out from guitar crunch to reggae, dub, and Spectorized pop. By comparison, Green Day sound exactly the same as on their first album, albeit with crisper production and, ominously, a palpable degeneration in their sense of humor. The few hints of growth are fairly microscopic: a tougher metallic edge to a few of the songs ... and lyrics that are bleaker than Dookie's."
AllMusic similarly noted that "they kept their blueprint and made it a shade darker. Throughout Insomniac, there are vague references to the band's startling multi-platinum breakthrough, but the album is hardly a stark confessional on the level of Nirvana's In Utero. ... While nothing on the album is as immediate as "Basket Case" or "Longview," the band has gained a powerful sonic punch, which goes straight for the gut but sacrifices the raw edge they so desperately want to keep and makes the record slightly tame. Billie Joe hasn't lost much of his talent for simple, tuneful hooks, but after a series of songs that all sound pretty much the same, it becomes clear that he needs to push himself a little bit more if Green Day ever want to be something more than a good punk-pop band. As it is, they remain a good punk-pop band, and Insomniac is a good punk-pop record, but nothing more." Robert Christgau opined "[Armstrong's] songs conceptualize his natural whine with a musicality that undercuts his defeatism."
The album was included at number 8 on Rock Sound's "The 51 Most Essential Pop Punk Albums of All Time" list.
Singles and commercial performance
Insomniac debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling over 171,000 copies its first week of release. The first single released from Insomniac was "Geek Stink Breath". The song was successful on both Top 40 and rock radio stations and peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay.
The second single, released exclusively in the United Kingdom, was "Stuck with Me". The song was moderately successful in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, but was not one of the group's bigger hits in the US.
The third single from the album was "Brain Stew/Jaded". The two were separate songs (tracks 10 and 11 on Insomniac), but they were released together as a single and a music video.
The last single from the album was "Walking Contradiction".
All lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong, except where noted; all music composed by Green Day, except where noted.
|3.||"Stuck with Me"||2:16|
|4.||"Geek Stink Breath"||2:15|
|6.||"Bab's Uvula Who?"||2:08|
|8.||"Panic Song" (lyrics written by Mike Dirnt and Armstrong)||3:35|
|9.||"Stuart and the Ave."||2:03|
|13.||"Tight Wad Hill"||2:01|
|15.||"I Wanna Be on T.V." (written by Sam McBride and Tom Flynn; originally performed by Fang)||1:17|
|Australian tour Souvenir Edition live EP (also known as the Live Tracks EP)|
|1.||"Welcome to Paradise" (live)||4:06|
|2.||"One of My Lies" (live)||2:25|
|6.||"2000 Light Years Away" (live)||2:49|
- Rob Cavallo; Green Day – producers
- Kevin Army – engineer
- Jerry Finn – mixing
- Richard Huredia; Bernd Burgdorf – additional engineers
- Winston Smith – cover art
- Dirk Walter - art direction
- David Harlan - typographic design
|1995||US Billboard 200||2|
|1995||Canada Albums (The Record)||2|
|1995||Australia (ARIA) ||5|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Gold||25,000*|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||2× Platinum||2,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|Year||Song||Peak chart positions|
|US Airplay||US Alt
|1995||"Geek Stink Breath"||27||3||9||22||1||40||16|
|1995||"Stuck with Me"||—||—||—||—||—||46||24|
In popular culture
- The song "Westbound Sign" was used in the teaser trailer for the Disney/Pixar film Cars.
- The title "Bab's Uvula Who?" comes from a 1976 Saturday Night Live sketch with Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase.
- "86" was featured in the 1996 MTV film Joe's Apartment.
- The songs "Geek Stink Breath", "Brain Stew", and "Jaded" are featured in the music game Green Day: Rock Band.
- A remix of the song "Brain Stew" was made for the soundtrack of the 1998 movie, Godzilla.
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