By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"I started getting into music because it was fun," Armstrong says. "And the last thing I ever thought was that punk rock was going to get popular--it had already been proven a fact that it wouldn't be. That was in 1988. You know what I mean? I still enjoy myself. I mean, that's really all it was--for fun and to express myself. I don't think it runs that deep. You know, I don't really expect anything out of it. I never have."
And yet the just-released Insomniac is almost the typical post-initial success album--the one on which new rock stars gripe about newfound fame, wealth, success. Like Nirvana's In Utero, Insomniac is the darker side of its predecessor, the confused and even bitter rantings of a man who never thought he'd be successful at anything until he woke up in a bed of gold.
"All of my songs are autobiographical--things about myself, mostly, and sometimes about other people," Armstrong says. "A song like 'Brat' [from Insomniac] is kinda like my ode to the college students, somebody who just waits for their parents to die to get their inheritance, and just freeloads off them and lives in the dorms or whatever. Living in Berkeley, I grew up around people like that. It kinda turned from envy to straight-up jealousy, to tell you the truth." He laughs. "Plus, my son will probably be singing the song one day."
In the end, the loser of Dookie instead becomes his own "worst friend [and] closest enemy" on Insomniac; and the paranoia of which Armstrong sang on "Basket Case" proves well-founded in songs like "86" and "Brat." The record literally seethes with references to self-destruction (through drugs or ego), death, old age; it's angrier, more sneering, tighter, leaner. "My wallet's fat," Armstrong sings on "Walking Contradiction." "And so is my head."
"I definitely think a lot of the lyrical content on this record is a reaction to what has happened to me in the past year," Armstrong says. "A lot of it's just really schizophrenic in a lot of ways, though I'm not schizophrenic or anything. Just playing live can really get out a lot of different kind of aggressions--if you're pissed off, if you're in a good mood, if you're constipated. It's all different things, and that's what I get out of it. I feel like accomplishing something within myself. I don't really know what that is, but every day it's something different.
"It's just there subconsciously. Don't get me wrong, we're still having fun. But when this isn't fun for us anymore, then fuck it. And when I feel like I can't vent any kind of aggression through music anymore and it all just seems the same, then I'll just forget it. I don't even want to pretend I like what I'm doing."
Green Day performs December 9 at the Fair Park Coliseum. The Riverdales open.