Seeing Red: DS Writer Catherine Dempsey on why Green Day’s “86” is disappointing in every sense

Is there anything worse than a truly terrible song on an otherwise perfect album? Probably, but for the sake of our new series, Seeing Red, there isn’t. In Seeing Red we ask our staff writers to talk about the songs that they hate on albums that they love.

To kick things off, we have Dying Scene columnist Catherine Dempsey discuss her disappointment with Green Day’s “86” from their 1995 album, Insomniac. You can read her thoughts below.Insomniac is undoubtedly Green Day’s most aggressive record. Written in the aftermath of the genre-smashing Dookie-era, when the band was welcomed with open arms into the mainstream and crucified for their decision to sign to a major label by the elitist punks, the record was bound to contain some compressed rage. It was a critical plot point in the story of Green Day.

It’s also one of my favorite Green Day albums of all time. Every song is beautifully dark, often to a point bordering on ridiculous. Take “Brat,” a song unapologetically about hoping your parents just hurry up and die already so you can finally get your inheritance. Or “Geek Stink Breath,” clearly about doing meth and “picking scabs” off your face. These songs are so negative and hopeless, self-deprecating and cynical. Insomniac is a cry for help in the most desperate sense. It doesn’t give a fuck.

But I hate “86” so god damn much. It’s one of the most boring songs Green Day has ever recorded in their nearly 30 year history (other than “Oh Love” – let’s just pretend that was a bad dream). “86” is such a downfall, mostly because I see potential in it. The song is directly inspired by their deal with Warner Brothers and, as a result, getting banned from ever playing 924 Gilman again, the band’s second home in their early days.

A song with a meaning as important as this could’ve been so much more interesting. The chorus drags and drags and drags with, “There’s no return from 86” with no ending in sight. It lacks the emotion you would expect it to contain. The verses fall flat. Everything about this song is repetitive. Hearing the first 10 seconds of it is all you need to hear, because the rest of it is just on a loop. It’s so boring – so very, very boring. I am falling asleep, people.

When compared to every other song on Insomniac, “86” just can’t hold up. “Panic Song” has a long, gorgeous build up that eventually explodes into a cast of chaos, perfectly fitting with the album and it’s theme. “No Pride” has hysterical lyrics and catchy hooks, with nihilism to match. I can’t shut up about the bass lines in “Stuart and the Ave.” I could go on and on.

“86” could have been the star, or say, the true climax of Insomniac. Instead, it flounders and drowns in a sea of anxiety-ridden tracks that could’ve done better without this disappointing track beside it.

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  • this is my favorite album they ever made as well

    • It’s hard for me to choose between Insomniac and Nimrod – they’re both kickass albums!

      • i totally agree. i cant stand ameican idiot or anything after that. but i do love me some foxboro hot tubs or even pinhead gunpowder haha

      • For me it’s between Dookie and Insomniac – “Last Ride In” and “King For a Day” taint Nimrod for me, though it’s still strong.

        Never had a problem with “86”. “Brain Stew” is the annoying song off Insomniac, for me. Not that it’s bad, but I object to its popularity. You’d think “biggest hit” and “best song” would be synonymous, but it’s so often not the case.

        • I see why Brain Stew could be super annoying. I believe it was ripped off from Chicago too. So often “biggest hit” also means “single” which also means “the most radio-friendly and boring song”.

          Dookie was never a favorite for me. There are some gems on there, and it’s nostalgic, but it never hit me the way Insomniac did. I like your logic though!

  • This is one of my favorite Green Day songs, and Insomniac is my favorite album of theirs. I’d say the only song I don’t like on it is Geek Stink Breath.

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