Insomniac vs 21st Century Breakdown
At first glance it would appear that these two albums can’t be compared. Not only do they sound drastically different from each other but they also have little in common lyrically. So why compare them at all? The reason I am comparing these two albums is that they were both somewhat successful follow-ups to Green Day’s two biggest albums (Dookie and American Idiot).
Insomniac had a hard act to follow as Dookie was a major success and pushed the band into a new level of stardom. This distanced them from their Gilman Street peers as they were booted from the community they came from for singing with a major label. This explains why there is a shift from the apathy and confusion of Dookie to the anger of Insomniac. The album feels like the natural direction for the band to go at the time and arguably isn’t appreciated as much as it should be.
21st Century Breakdown also had a hard act to follow, coming after the huge success of American Idiot. At this point in time things had changed. While there were still some very personal songs on American Idiot there was also a strong political element that took the band to a new level. The pressure was on for 21st Century Breakdown to do the same. The issue in this case was that they weren’t in the same frustrating world that American Idiot was made in. This left the band with a lot less to talk about politically. There was also the flaw of the album trying to live up to American Idiot. Insomniac never seemed too concerned with trying to top Dookie, it simply did what it wanted. Listening to 21st Century Breakdown, it often feels like a conscious attempt to do better than American Idiot by taking similar formulas and amping them up with orchestral elements. Nowhere is this more obvious than with 21 Guns and Restless Heart Syndrome. Both were way too inspired by Boulevard of Broken Dreams, with a similar tempos, structures and even similarities in solos. While both are great songs, the feeling that they were trying too hard to top themselves is hard to escape. Overall this was a great album but felt a bit more forced than Insomniac.