Dookie gave Green Day success, but it was never really clear whether they wanted it in the first place. However, given the incessantly catchy songwriting of Billie Joe, the success made sense. Green Day were traditionalists without realizing it, learning all of their tricks through secondhand records and second-generation California punk bands. They didn't change their sound in the slightest after signing to a major label, which meant that they couldn't revert back to a harsher, earlier sound as a way to shed their audience for Dookie's follow-up, Insomniac. Instead, they kept their blueprint and made it a shade darker. Throughout Insomniac, there are vague references to the band's startling multi-platinum breakthrough, but the album is hardly a stark confessional on the level of Nirvana's In Utero. It's a collection of speedy, catchy songs in the spirit of the Buzzcocks, the Jam, the Clash, and the Undertones, but played with more minor chords and less melody and recorded with a bigger, hard rock-oriented production. While nothing on the album is as immediate as "Basket Case" or "Longview," the band has gained a powerful sonic punch, which goes straight for the gut but sacrifices the raw edge they so desperately want to keep and makes the record slightly tame. Billie Joe hasn't lost much of his talent for simple, tuneful hooks, but after a series of songs that all sound pretty much the same, it becomes clear that he needs to push himself a little bit more if Green Day ever want to be something more than a good punk-pop band. As it is, they remain a good punk-pop band, and Insomniac is a good punk-pop record, but nothing more.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine