After Dookie more than blessed Green Day with the big hit album they deserved, the band stay the course to a point on Insomniac, titled after one of Billie Joe's more harrowing experiences as a new dad. Of course, knowing he's now a father, that gives some of the more juvenile moments on this album, most notably "Brat" ("I'll just wait for mom and dad to die and get my inheritance") that much more of a calculated undertone. Still, the boys are bored, nihilistic and not above purile humor once in a while, just like before, and it mines the core sound of Dookie to a tee.
But there are a couple little things they try once in a while just to spice things up, since knowing what we know now of Billie Joe's ambition, he must have been in a precarious position here. Happily, it usually works. "Brain Stew" slows things down considerably, one of their slowest ever numbers, and the main riff is produced down to a few short bursts of descending chords, occasionally splicing in a wordless chorus of endlessly overdubbed, muted guitar strokes. The result is a clear, instantly memorable standout, that fades right into "Jaded," a mile-a-minute blast of pure punk where its brevity works in its favor. "Geek Stink Breath" is not so much punk as standard mid-tempo grunge, making that particular song a funny choice for a lead single, since grunge by 1995 was going out of fashion in favor of the band's own brand of pop-punk and post-grunge. The craziest experiment, though, is "Panic Song." For two minutes, we get Mike Dirnt basically using his bass for a Dick Dale impression, and the band basically growing into a power-strumming beast until collapsing back into their standard pop-punk routine.
When the band do business as usual, it's at worst okay ("No Pride," "Westbound Sign") and at best boisterous fun ("Bab's Uvula Who?" - it's an SNL reference). It mostly sounds like Dookie again, and they certainly have every right to go back to the well - Billie Joe's got a filthy mouth on him as usual, and if anything, their pessimism and mood swings are accentuated. There's a backload of material here about panic, anxiety and anger issues. Nothing that really rocks the boat, but nothing comes off anything less than decent since the band are as sharp as ever. Plus, you gotta love the constantly contradicting lyrics from, well, "Walking Contradiction."
This wasn't destined to be too many people's favorite Green Day album, but it's no slouch - it's a reasonably satisfying dose of what made the band so much fun in the 90s. Even better, it has hints of the stretching out that would start to blossom on 1998's Nimrod and continue into the next decade.