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Goo Goo Dolls

Today a different soft-rock proposition to that of their rudimentary glam-power-punk days of the late 80s, the GOO GOO DOLLS have come through the flak to become one of the globe’s top combos – and virtually through one monster hit, `Iris’. Their most recognisable track and a syrupy signature tune of sorts, the record has been the elixir of their repertoire since it first charted in 1998 and 1999. Boosted by its multiple X-Factor outings by the odd wannabe pop star, it’s since gate-crashed the British charts in 2011 (at No.3), and it’s still having its lengthy run two years on – 15 years after its initial breakthrough!
Their name lifted from a “True Detective” ad for a toy, and formed in Buffalo, New York, the GOO GOO DOLLS (singer/bassist Robby Takac – a former DJ – guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik and drummer George Tutuska) first spewed out their visceral grunge-esque punk-rock in 1985. Like a fusion of CHEAP TRICK, early LEMONHEADS and The REPLACEMENTS, the trio struck a deal with Mercenary Records, who delivered a low-rent eponymous “First Release”: GOO GOO DOLLS (1987) {*4}; not deemed worthy of a release in Britain until they’d established themselves a little. Featuring over a dozen short, sharp shocks (including raucous re-treads of CREAM’s `Sunshine Of Your Love’ and BLUE OYSTER CULT’s `Don’t Fear The Reaper’), there was no lack of enthusiasm and energy on the likes of the descriptive `I’m Addicted’, `Hard Sores’ and `Don’t Beat My Ass (With A Baseball Bat)’.
A follow-up, “JED” (1989) {*4}, was also sprinkled with the odd cover version; a reading of CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL’s `Down On The Corner’ presided over by guest lounge crooner, Lance Diamond, while The ROLLING STONES’ `Gimme Shelter’ was bludgeoned to death. It also marked the emergence of Rzeznik as a singer, his confidence growing on his two contributions, `Up Yours’ and the acoustic finale, `James Dean’.
With Metal Blade Records taking over the reins, their powerful metal-punk won over new audiences after the release of their third set, HOLD ME UP (1990) {*6}. Rzeznik was again at the forefront of nearly half the songs (top cut: `There You Are’), while Takac was effectively raspy on his share; the return of “the incredible” Lance Diamond gave PRINCE’s `…Never Take The Place Of Your Man’, a classier touch; the other cover was The PLIMSOULS’ power-pop classic, `A Million Miles Away’.
Approximately three years on, and with Warner Brothers giving newbie frontman Rzeznik (and Co) full backing, GGD returned with SUPERSTAR CAR WASH (1993) {*7}, a transitional set preceding their break for the big time. Heavy rotation/airplay for the PAUL WESTERBERG co-scribed single, `We Are The Normal’ was the talking point, although many pundits, uneasy with their slight sway from their hardcore roots, saddled them just another punk-fuelled REPLACEMENTS replica; examples `Fallin’ Down’, `Cuz You’re Gone’, `On The Line’, et al.
Tutuska was subsequently replaced by Mike Malinin; the sticksman coming in for the band’s Lou Giordano-produced set, A BOY NAMED GOO (1995) {*8}, a Top 30 success that featured their biggest hit to date, `Name’. However, unlike many of their peers (GREEN DAY, The OFFSPRING, et al), the ‘Dolls didn’t really translate to the saturated Brit-pop market, despite having other US radio airplay hits via `Only One’, `Naked’ and `Long Way Down’.
Containing their mainstream ballad contribution, `Iris’ (written for the chart-topping V/A soundtrack, City Of Angels), DIZZY UP THE GIRL (1998) {*7}, put The GOO GOO DOLLS – the definitive article an addiction – up there amongst the premiership of American bands. Six albums in, over a distance of a dozen years, one could hear touches of fading lights, SOUL ASYLUM and The GIN BLOSSOMS, while The REPLACEMENTS were once again cited as their gods of rock. With further major hits garnered from `Slide’, `Black Balloon’ and `Broadway’, the college campus contingent had a bona fide pop-rock act to shout about.
Now irrevocably part of the major league despite their unassuming aesthetic, the Goos returned with GUTTERFLOWER (2002) {*7}, as an unashamedly major league, Top 5 album, with a suitably pristine production to match. That said, the spirit – if not the sound – of their more ragged earlier releases was still intact, indicating a potential longevity which has since outlasted many of their formative influences. From `Big Machine’ to the token smash hit, `Here Is Gone’, Rzeznik’s post-divorce lyrical brooding sandpapered the gloss on many of the set’s delicate dirges; best examples, `Think About Me’, `It’s Over’, `Sympathy’ and `What Do You Need’. It also must be noted that Robby’s raspy rockers (`Tucked Away’, for one) filed out the rough edges from the smooth.
Boosted by a Top 40 “studio” cover of SUPERTRAMP’s `Give A Little Bit’, The GOO GOOs got in on the CD/DVD-package action with LIVE IN BUFFALO: JULY 4th 2004 {*6}. Incidentally, a couple of compilation sets picked up on their many B-side covers, including `I Wanna Destroy You’ (The SOFT BOYS), `I Don’t Wanna Know’ (FLEETWOOD MAC), `Wait For The Blackout’ (The DAMNED), `Slave Girl’ (LIME SPIDERS), `Don’t Change’ (INXS), `American Girl’ (TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS), and a few others.
Shooting the breeze on their umpteenth studio set, LET LOVE IN (2006) {*5}, the Goos dug their heels in for another batch of safe rock. Flawlessly produced by Glen Ballard (ALANIS MORISSETTE, etc.), the Top 10 record once again courted a mainstream audience, while singles `Better Days’ and `Stay With You’ also fared quite well.
Something of a celebrity in his homeland, Rzeznik turned his hand to producing for the likes of ANASTACIA, RYAN CABRERA, et al, while he was also a judge of the talent show, The Next Great American Band. GOO GOO DOLLS, meanwhile, returned from another lengthy lay-off. The slightly disappointing SOMETHING FOR THE REST OF US (2010) {*5}, probably lacked a strong single or two, but in these days of downloads, songs such as `Sweetest Lie’, `As I Am’ and `Nothing Is Real’, have to seek out that something special (another `Iris’, maybe), to rise from the perpetual graveyard-digging of the CD-single format release.
June 2013’s MAGNETIC {*5} was more or less delivered while `Iris’ was achieving legendary status. Gooey and sentimental rather than rootsy and rowdy, outsider writers were drawn into the fold to augment the anthem-addled Rzeznik. Led out by flop single, `Rebel Beat’, there was a definite autumnal approach to the songs such as `More Of You’ and `Come To Me’. The frigid “Magnetic” might yet be a slow burner, although how many times has one said that having occasionally rifled through the bargain bins? Answer: never.
Absent of long-time drummer Malinin from late 2013 (replaced by Craig MacIntyre in session and on tour), 2016 was time again for the GOO GOO DOLLS duo of Rzeznik and Takac to re-emerge with album number eleven, BOXES {*5}. Losing chart ground by definition that the set only reached #27, its metaphor-ish meaning was lost somewhere in the modern-rock miasma of plaintive power-ballads, such as best bits `So Alive’, `Free Of Me’, `Flood’ (featuring guest teenage chanteuse Sydney Sierota of ECHOSMITH) and opener `Over And Over’.
© MC Strong 1999-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS June2013-May2016

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