Happy 25th: Green Day, INSOMNIAC

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Green Day INSOMNIAC Cover

25 years ago this week, Green Day released their fourth studio album, an LP which had a Herculean task ahead of it upon hitting record store shelves: to try and shift something approximating the same number of units as its predecessor, a.k.a. the band’s big commercial breakthrough, DOOKIE.


No pressure.


Recorded at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Studios, INSOMNIAC was co-produced by the band with Rob Cavallo, the same gentleman who assisted with the knob-twiddling on DOOKIE, which – at the time the band started recording INSOMNIAC – was hovering somewhere around the ten-million mark in sales. While Green Day had certainly picked up a ton of new fans, a number of their old fans were crying “sell-out” at considerable volume, creating a fair amount of emotional turmoil for frontman / guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong.


“I couldn’t find the strength to convince myself that what I was doing was a good thing,” Armstrong told Kerrang! “I was in a band that was huge because it was supposed to be huge, because our songs were that good. But I couldn’t even feel that I was doing the right thing, because it felt like I was making so many people angry.”


“There was a real urgency to stake our claim and say, ‘No, we belong here,’” bassist Mike Dirnt told Kerrang! “It was really important to us to make sure people knew that we weren’t just a flash in the pan.”


Given the overwhelmingly positive reviews which greeted INSOMNIAC upon its release, it’s fair to say that Green Day succeeded on that front. On the other hand, however, the album’s singles definitely didn’t meet with the same level of radio airplay in the U.S. that the tunes from DOOKIE did. Both “Geek Stink Breath” and “Brain Stew/Jaded” were top-5 hits on Billboard’s Alternative Singles chart, with a third single, “Walking Contradiction,” hitting #21 on that chart, but they failed to secure the same degree of crossover success in America. On the other hand, “Geek Stink Breath” hit #16 on the UK Singles chart, with “Stuck With Me” and “Brain Stew/Jaded” both landing in the top 30 across the pond, climbing to #24 and #28, respectively.


That said, INSOMNIAC did hit #2 on the Billboard 200, which is the same chart high as its predecessor, and the album did ultimately go double platinum, which is certainly not what one would describe as a shabby chart performance. Granted, it did sell significantly fewer copies than DOOKIE, and the band’s next album, NIMROD, would stall at #10, but it’s all good: anyone who may have thought that Green Day was turning into a flash in the punk pan were only a few years away from getting seriously schooled by the release of AMERICAN IDIOT.


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