The world is a sick machine
Breeding a mass of shit
With such a desolate conclusion
Fill the void with… I don’t care
Not much of a lyric to fuel a revolution, that but let’s face it we just came here to jump up and down and enjoy ourselves to some good tunes; welcome to Green Day Insomniac. My brother did me a cassette with Foo Fighters on one side and Insomniac on the other in early ’96 (I was too skint to buy either LP at the time), it became my constant companion on my 40 minute bus ride to work and much as I enjoyed the Foo-Foos I found myself listening to Insomniac more often and got a lot more out of it; still do.
I could never really see why Dookie became such a vast LP, I mean it’s a very good, enjoyable one but not really much more than that to my tired old ears. Insomniac doubles down on the previous LPs strengths and adds muscle, making it a much rockier prospect. Take my fave track side 2 opener ‘Panic Song’, which opens with a full two-minutes of instrumental build and grandiosity where Billie Joe Armstrong gets to sneak in a few tricks from Pete Townsend’s playbook, it’s all raging nicely by the time the singing whangs in.
Green Day always seemed to get bad press for ‘not being punk enough’, whatever that means; small-minded envy in the main, which is what the song ’86’ is about here. Let’s face it they could write great, jumping melodies in their sleep and they were never going to sound like the Fartz or SSD. Plus as my all-time punker hero sang ‘A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down’*, if you’ve got anything to say that you think is worth saying then broadcast it to as many people as you can, why bother otherwise?
So Insomniac hurtles through 14 songs in 32 minutes, all of which you can hum afterwards whilst dancing around in your kitchen**. I like it all but my particular favourites are the slow churn of ‘Brain Stew’ where they add some real guitar bite, the throwaway ‘Stuck With Me’, the sweartastic ;Stuart & The Avenue’, the racing ‘No Pride’, the wonderfully jerky ‘Bab’s Uvula Who?’ … and … have I reached 14 yet? There’s very little point in a track by track here when I can genuinely say that I really enjoy every single track here, to an almost indecent extent. Green Day sound tighter, leaner and meaner here than they did before, which was great news as far as I was concerned.
Adding to the fun is the Winston Smith cover art called ‘God Told Me to Skin You Alive’ which amongst other wholesomely corrupted images are hidden ghostly faces and monsters in (and around) the flames, three skulls, one for each band member AND A NAKED CHICK! Now I can spot the three skulls, one requires tilting the cover towards you à la Holbein, but I really can’t spot the nude lady. Which is pretty rotten when you consider that I like flames and I quite like skulls but I am really very partial to unclad women. Damn you, fate!
Insomniac was seen as a bit of a flop after the Nirvana-esque success of Dookie, I think it only sold one zillion, rather than 14 tetra-quadzillion copies and never provided a huge hit single; so it goes
Well, destiny is dead
In the hands of bad luck
Before it might have made some sense
But now it’s all fucked up
Except it isn’t, because this is all rather splendid fun. Way to go fellas, now if you’ll excuse me I’m ready to get up and do my thing, I wanna get into it, man, you know… Like a, like a sick machine, 1-2-3-4 …
PS: Thanks to Aaron for setting my thoughts in motion for reviewing this baby.
*Mary MF Poppins – lead singer with The Nanniez, who can forget their incredible 1979 debut Big Knobs & Broomsticks?
**which I spend about 10.8% of my conscious time doing. True story.