Goo Goo Dolls – Boxes (Warner Bros.)
The Goo Goo Dolls have made some serious changes over the years. They first popped onto the pop culture radar in the late 80s as a scrappy punk band on the Metal Blade label. They released a few down and dirty DIY platters, but no matter how hardcore they leaned, they always had a loopy pop sensibility: check out their cover of Prince’s “Never Take the Place Of Your Man” with lounge singer Lance Diamond on lead vocals on the old album Hold Me Up.
By the 90s, they had moved to a major label (WB) and streamlined their sound, morphing into superstars, specializing in brooding alt-rock balladry like “Name,” “Iris” and “Black Balloon.” There are all sorts of reasons for this change, but probably the most significant one was that lead singer John Rzeznik took charge, leaving the more-edgy lead guitarist relegated Robby Takac a couple of songs per album, and those always ended up being album tracks.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Goo Goo Dolls are particularly good at shiny alt-pop confections with a dangerous edge, and Boxes is an assured return to form after several years mostly out of the public eye. In fact, it’s easily the band’s best group of original songs since Let Love In, in 2006, maybe even arguably since their mega-hit Dizzy Up the Girl in 1998. It’s also of note that Boxes is the group’s first release since drummer Mike Malinin left the group, as he was a long-standing component of the band’s glory days.
Boxes was previewed by the gorgeous “So Alive,” which rides a music-box piano line over chants and a cresting and waning instrumental bed. Other standouts include “Flood,” a terrific poppy duet with Echosmith vocalist Sydney Sierota and the new wave-feeling “Free of Me.” And if they don’t release “Reverse” as the next single, they are missing out on a smart bet.
The snotty young men of the earliest albums are pretty much gone, but the Goo Goo Dolls are shifting into settled middle-age with aplomb. If they can keep making music as pleasing as Boxes, they will be still be relevant long after most of their contemporaries are forgotten. Which, I guess, could already be said.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 15, 2016.