Johnny’s daughter Liliana is 2 1/2 years old, while Robby’s daughter Hana is 7
By Jeff Gaudiosi
Goo Goo Dolls formed in Buffalo, New York in 1986. A trio when they started, the Goo Goo Dolls were a loud, fast, garage punk band at the outset. Bassist Robbie Takac handled the lead vocals and early records were notable for punked-up covers of songs like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Gimme Shelter”. By their third album, the band began their first evolutionary change when guitarist Johnny Rzeznik took over the lead vocal spot. A change in style also occurred, spurred by Rzeznik’s exceptional songwriting, that saw the Goo Goo Dolls become more a melodic, mainstream band. This change to an overwhelming period of success centered around their 1998 classic Dizzy Up the Girl.
For the next decade or so Goo Goo Dolls lived off Rzeznik’s guitar-driven, sing-a-long melodies and sold millions of records. Following the lukewarm reception to 2010’s Something for the Rest of Us, the group began their next evolution. 2013’s Magnetic was a hybrid between the heavy guitar sound of the past and a look toward a more modern, sleeker sound that would come to fruition on 2016’s exceptional Boxes. Boxes showed the band had little interest in living in their garage rock past and were willing to ride Rzeznik’s brilliant songwriting and vision headlong into the future. That future explodes into the now with the release of Miracle Pill, easily a high-water mark of the band’s career.
One thing is clear on Miracle Pill, there are very few people that can match Johnny Rzeznik’s songwriting talent. Regardless of style, whether it’s heavy guitars or synth and drums, a great song is a great song, and the foundation of Miracle Pill is superb songwriting. The record poses a bit of a shock on first listen as sonically it’s not the Goo Goo Dolls of “Slide” and “Black Balloon”. The songs are driven more by keyboards than guitars, but Rzeznik’s penchant for coming up with the perfect sing-a-long chorus always reminds you that this is, in fact, a Goo Goo Dolls record.
As with Boxes, lyrically Miracle Pill is a very personal record, and the band have done a superb job with the running order of the tracks. The first part of the record contains the anthems, songs like “Indestructible”, “Fearless”, and “Miracle Pill” with their big choruses that are designed to get the listener engaged in what’s to come. The second part contains the more reflective songs like “Over You”, “Lights” and, one of the highlights of the record, “Lost”. Miracle Pill is meant to be listened to as a whole, as the themes and sounds of each song build into the next.
Of course, no Goo Goo Dolls record is complete without Robbie Takac’s songs. Here he has two, “Step in Line” and “Life’s a Message” and both rank among his best contributions to any Goo Goo Dolls record. He sounds in great voice, and both songs are fun, upbeat tracks. Miracle Pill draws to a close with possibly two of its strongest tracks. The sublime, beautiful “Autumn Leaves” and “Think It Over”, a throw-back to the more traditional Goo Goo Dolls sound.
Goo Goo Dolls are a band that seldom look back and continually try to move forward. While their contemporaries are usually satisfied with touring their hits and avoiding new music, Rzeznik and Takac continue to push the envelope, evolve their sound and release vital new music that easily stands alongside the best of their career.
The Goo Goo Dolls giving fans a ‘Miracle Pill’: “They like to take that journey with us”
The Goo Goo Dolls’ twelfth studio album, Miracle Pill, is out today. While many artists these days have abandoned the idea of making full albums in favor of singles or EPs, the veteran group believes an album’s the only way their fans can have that “deeper connection” with them.
“I think we’ve got millions of people who’ve grown up listening to our albums and they like to take that journey with us,” bass player Robby Takac tells ABC Radio. “To me, it’s a special part of what we do…people make a deeper connection to a band when they say something. And I think the people who have been with us a long time…they’re that kind of people.”
The band began writing songs for Miracle Pill last year, as soon as they were done with their tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their biggest album, Dizzy Up the Girl. Frontman Johnny Rzeznik says playing the songs on that album gave him closure.
“By the end of the tour, I just felt like, ‘O.K., we can kinda put that record, and that time on the shelf,'” he tells ABC Radio. “I was, like, ‘O.K., I’m ready to come up with something new.'”
To do that, Johnny says he experimented with different sounds, different co-writers, and even different studios in different cities.
“What I wanted to do on this album was…learn from people,” he explains. “So I worked with guys that I felt like I could learn something from.”
Despite the experimentation, Miracle Pill still includes those upbeat, anthemic tracks that Goo Goo Dolls are known for.
“Things [in the world] are nuts right now,” says Robby. “So…we’ve been trying to look for some optimistic things to share with people who listen to our music.”
by Tom London
Goo Goo Dolls are a pop-rock institution.
The band, who consist of singer John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takec, come into the recording of new album Miracle Pill after an extensive world tour celebrating 20 years of their classic LP Dizzy Up The Girl.
Though it was the band’s sixth album, it’s one that sent them into the stratosphere, largely thanks to the success of single ‘Iris’, and wound up selling over four million copies. On the tour, they played the record in its entirety and came home, naturally, hungry to do something brand new.
That’s Miracle Pill, which arrives in stores today, we spoke to Rzeznik about how it all came together…
When did you start putting the songs together? Were these tracks written on the road?
“We did the 20th-anniversary tour for Dizzy Up The Girl, we played that whole record and a few others, and, at the end of that tour, I felt like we’d put that album to bed and I was ready for something else. I sat down pretty quickly after that. This record developed really quickly, which was a lot of fun.”
Did you have a goal in mind? Or an idea to do things differently? Or do you just write and see what comes out?
“What comes out, that’s how I work. I don’t think about it too much. Once you have the rough versions of the songs, you begin to think about production. I have a great collection of vintage recording equipment, spring reverbs the size of refrigerators, stompbox pedals that go straight into the console. I really enjoy mangling up my songs once I have them.”
When does Robby come in?
“When the basic idea is done. It’s the same for me with his songs. On this record, I was working in New York and Los Angeles and he was up in Buffalo doing his thing. If either of us needs help we’re only a phone call away. But we were both really on a roll this time. We both just wanted to keep going, it was very fast.”
There are a few collaborators on the record, but no named producer, was that a decision you took? Or did the songs come so fast you didn’t need anyone?
“I don’t like using one producer. I want the band to be the element that ties the song together rather than the producer being the sound. When I start to sing or the way I play guitar is us, I want to retain that. And, to be honest, I burn producers out. I’m a producer myself and I burn these guys out. The last time I did 10 songs with one guy I thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown.”
Not a great idea…
“It’s a lot easier for me if it’s three or four guys and you do a few songs with each. Time is limited. You do two weeks with somebody and then you agree to do it again next year. It keeps fresh energy pumping into the situation.”
Who did you have with you this time?
“A guy named Sam Hollander, incredible guy. Derek Furman, great producer, Drew Pearson, another good one. They’re my friends, and, mostly, we’ve been working together for a long time. The power of collaboration has become so important to me. I used to sit in a room by myself and go insane. A couple of records ago I just decided that I couldn’t do this anymore, I need to be around other people. You learn so much from other people. You always need to be open to discovering something new.”
What kind of album is it lyrically?
“The songs that I write seem to have a theme of dealing with people and trying to make connections. Feeling like you may never make a connection, but there’s always hope. There always has to be hope in my songs, what is there to live for otherwise?”
When did you decide that Miracle Pill was the right title for the record?
“When Sam and I wrote Miracle Pill, I thought instantly that it was a great name for an album. That was it. I wish I had a better story. I immediately started thinking of album covers and photoshoots, a lot of cool imagery, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one.”
You’ve got 12 records now, your live set must be a challenge to put together…
“It’s a fine balance. You don’t want to play a song that nobody knows. That’s just awkward. What I hope is that people really want to hear the new songs and make it even harder. But it’ll be the songs people know and love. People take the time to come and see you and pay their hard-earned money, you need to give them what they want. I get to indulge myself with a few rare tracks.”
Having done Dizzy Up The Girl in full, is that a one-off or can you see yourself doing that again for another record?
“I don’t think I’d do that again. It’s too much of one album. Not again.”
You’re booked pretty solidly in the US for the rest of the year, when is Europe and the UK on the horizon?
“We’re on tour with Train right now and then we’re going to South America to open for Bon Jovi. An intimate show, just a little soccer stadium. Then we’ve got another headline tour in the States in the fall and then we’ll think about it. We’ve really just started to break in Europe and in the UK we generally play the Academies. I love them, they’re so old and dirty and they have such good energy. That’s where you should play rock and roll.”
Goo Goo Dolls’ new album Miracle Pill is out now in hmv stores.
BY ANDY THORLEY
Look, I am well aware that Goo Goo Dolls have released albums in the 21st century. Some good stuff too, but to me, they are always going to take me back to that summer when I was 22 years old. Coming up for 23. “Dizzy Up The Girl” the thing was called, and like all the bands I loved back then – Counting Crows, Live, Semisonic, Matchbox Twenty, Gin Blossoms, Bon Jovi they were about as American as radio rock gets.
I had a reason for loving “Slide”. That first verse: “Could you whisper in my ear. The things you wanna feel. I’d give you anythin’. To feel it comin’.”
The reason I had for loving it was simple. It spoke about the same girl that was “something beautiful” in “Mr. Jones” the one who, if she “didn’t expect too much from me, might not be let down” In “Hey Jealousy” and just about any other sad song you can think of.
Times, situations, tastes change. I haven’t even so much as seen her for nearly 20 years, and I don’t invest myself emotionally in songs like that anymore – and to be honest, US Arena Rock doesn’t do it for me these days. Shinedown? They wouldn’t know real emotion if it bit them on the arse, Alter Bridge? Oh please….
But there’s something inside that you see the name Goo Goo Dolls and you owe it to the 20 something you to review it. God alone knows how it would have turned out if I had this website then, but I am sure of one thing: if I had reviewed “Miracle Pill” back then, then it would have sounded just the same.
Not for nothing have John Rzeznik and Robby Takac sold millions of records. There is nothing to dislike about “…..Pill” whatsoever.
It is rooted in its homeland. After the tinkling pianos of “Indestructible” you almost expect them to start singing “the screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways” but it soon opens up into some kind of polished pop music. Even with the solo at the end, we are a world away from their punk rock roots, but then, like I say times change.
Then comes “Fearless”, and you originally think, “blimey, this sounds like one of those self-help tapes” as it slams its way, in an extremely commercial way, then you stop and think about the positivity of the message. About how it’s what the world needs. A sense of community. And above all how it might help some kid, just like me in the 1990s, who needs something to reflect their existence.
And then you get it.
This is how the two have done it. Sustained a career when some of those contemporaries and peers have not. They are gifted with being able to write songs that connect in some way. “Miracle Pill” is catchy (that’s a given) but it embraces change.
Likewise “Money, Fame And Fortune” is driven with synths and never strays away from the middle of the road, but it has a charm that you can’t resist. “Step In Line” is pure pop, but it is epic in scope, and when they do a ballad, like on “Over You” it just sounds like an effortless way to get another Gold Disc.
But then, GGD are much more interesting than most modern pop I hear. “Lights” doesn’t do anything lyrically out of the ordinary, but has a huge soundscape to build them on. And you haven’t heard big until you’ve herd the drums on “Lost” – which it mixes superbly with the singer/songwriter stuff. Daughtry, to be honest, could learn some lessons here.
Given their admirable philanthropy and charity work, you can only applaud the two for walking it like they talk it. “Life’s A Message” does that, and you can almost hear the internal conflict in “Autumn Leaves”, which you sense desperately wants to stay stripped down but can’t help itself but go widescreen.
Sometimes with bands like this you are never quite sure how many new ones are going to make it in the live set, but if “Think It Over” isn’t there I will be staggered. “I am scared to make the change” sings Rzeznik, and its euphoric, soaring end is made solely for the arenas it is going to be sung in.
Ok, there aren’t a lot of chances being taken here. But then if you are looking for Goo Goo Dolls to be cutting edge, you are probably barking up the wrong tree anyway, but on the other hand, if you are looking for a manual on how to do arena rock for a mainstream audience, then no one here is on the slide – and that’s a Miracle (Pill) after all this time.
Ahead of their new album release, Rzeznik discusses the concepts on ‘Miracle Pill,’ his thoughts on social media, why he’s “so pro-daughter” and more
Alt-pop heros the Goo Goo Dolls are one of those bands that just keeps going. Even before they shattered the charts with jangly radio staples like “Slide,” “Iris” and “Black Balloon” in the ’90s, singer/songwriter/guitarist John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac were just a punk duo from Buffalo, New York, releasing records on indie labels—four, in fact, before their 1995 effort, A Boy Named Goo, broke them into the mainstream with its yearning acoustic strummer “Name.”
More than 12 million album sales and three GRAMMY nominations later, Rzeznik and Takac haven’t slowed down. They’re still together, still releasing albums and still faithful friends. which, as The Ringer recently pointed out, makes them rather unique entities in rock ‘n’ roll circles.
That’s not to say that the times haven’t rattled them, though. On their latest album, Miracle Pill, which arrives on Sept. 13, the duo attempts to grapple with the changing look of celebrity, the way social media breeds insincerity and the need for instant gratification and, perhaps most important, what it means to become a father.
Ahead of Miracle Pill’s release, Rzeznik called up the Recording Academy to talk about the concepts on Miracle Pill, why he’s “so pro-daughter” and getting a lump in his throat listening to fellow Replacements fans (and future tourmates) Beach Slang.
Listening to this album was a lot of fun. I appreciate the thematic thought that went into it. I’d love to get your thoughts on why Miracle Pill felt like the right name for the album?
Well, conceptually, it’s the idea of “miracle pill” to me when we were working on everything was kind of like the instant gratification and kind of quick-fix society that we live in, which has proven to be really dissatisfying.
Yeah, I think we can all agree by now that scrolling through Instagram can potentially bring about less-than-satisfying feelings of worthlessness. Not to mention the lengths some people go to achieve influencer fame using those platforms.
Yes. It’s unfortunate. That’s kind of where I’m going with this. I’ve met very lonely people who have 10,000 friends on Facebook. And it’s just not real. We’ve set up this artificial society in cyberspace. And that’s supposed to be a community, like a real community. It’s supposed to be where people go to get solace or friendship or have fun. “No man,” and, “That’s interesting.” That was an observation that was made in my own head because I don’t dare speak about my opinion in public about politics anymore.
I think [our] audience is divided 50/50 on politics, but at least they all agreed that they wanted to come and see us [on tour] or they wanted to come see Train. At least [music] is one thing we all have in common.
So if we’re living in a time when being a popular artist means that you must have an active social footprint, how do you personally choose to utilize social media?
Yeah, I tried it and I just found myself getting into arguments with people. You can hate my band, I really don’t care what your opinion is. You can hate my music, you can tell me how sh*tty I look because I gained 10 pounds or whatever. But when you drag my wife into it or my daughter or any of that kind of thing, then it’s like, how do I not respond?
So I quit all social media and I hired a guy to do it, and I send him texts and stuff. “Hey, I’d like to talk about this, but I don’t even want to see what the responses are.” I’m putting information out.
For me, social media is a one-way deal. It’s like all the traffic goes one direction and I don’t care how many people follow me, I don’t care how many people like what I do, give me a thumbs up or whatever it is. I am here to share a piece of information that I’ve decided is relevant to our relationship as musician and audience member. And that’s as far as it should go, you know?
Yeah, it’s interesting because the Goo Goo Dolls showed up at a time when album sales largely determined your success. Now, you can’t be a band starting out with no social following. Artists are basically signed to labels now because of their social following
It’s a much more complicated path. I want the music to actually speak for itself because that’s what’s ultimately driving these people. And sometimes I feel as though maybe I’m, for the second decade of the 21st century, an inadequate entity. Maybe I don’t have star power or star potential or whatever you want to call it. Or maybe I don’t have qualities that someone in 2019 needs to maintain a certain level of stardom. I don’t know, but I don’t care about it because it’s the songs are going to get through.
Personally, given your position, I don’t think you have to worry much about maintaining your social presence.
I’m getting to a point where I don’t care about the light show. I still care about people. What I’m trying to write on this album is my observations about what’s going on. A lot of the record is about getting second chances, about making connections. That’s one thing that was an unintentional theme that kind of took over the record.
I didn’t sit down and go, “I’m going to write a concept album.” It’s just, this is what’s on my mind. I’m not bringing my daughter up in this, but there’s a song called “Lost” on the album.
Derek Fuhrmann, the guy that I wrote the song with, he and I, his wife’s about to have a baby and I got a kid and we just started writing this thing, and it’s just like this song unintentionally became like a little piece of advice to our kids.
I am so pro-daughter, not that I’m anti-son, but we all have daughters, the whole band. Every guy in the band who’s got a kid has a daughter. And we get all our little girls together, we take them out on tour with us for a little bit at a time. And the older ones are spray painting their hair with the pink and the blue, and they’re spray painting the little girl’s hair. It’s a joy that I never thought I would have in my life. But the point of what I was saying, I got to backtrack you because I’m obsessed with my daughter.
That’s super sweet.
I love her. But the message is, you got to be strong, you got to be yourself. There’s a lot of shiny, pretty objects out there that when you actually touch them, they just fall apart. And it’s like, you need to be authentic, you need to be yourself. That was the point of that song. And you can’t have any fear about that, which brings me to the song “Fearless.”
That song is definitely about where this society, and the world at large, is sort of perched precariously. And I don’t know how much is media-driven, I do not know how much is reality. Because I think the wounds of this country are real. I don’t think they were ever properly healed and resolved because of a small group of peoples’ unbridled greed.
I think the media has a great way of irritating a wound to the point where it becomes sensationalized. And it’s like, no, these things need to be addressed in a thoughtful way. It’s like, you can’t explain your position on climate change in a 10 second soundbite. But that’s the world that we live in.
How are we going to do anything meaningful?
I have started trying so hard to sit down and just spend time just reading a book, not on a computer. And like calling people on the phone. People are weird about getting calls now.
Yeah, people panic and think something’s seriously wrong when a call comes in.
I want to hang out on the phone and bullsh*t with you. I don’t know, man, you’ve got to be fearless. That’s all there is to it. And the people who are going to be bold are the people who believe everything’s going to work out okay. This country’s going to have a few more dings and dents in our skull, but I think everything’s going to be okay. Ultimately.
You’ve mentioned your daughter a few times in this interview. She’s still very young. What made you decide you wanted to have kids? Keeping in mind, well, all of the problems you outline on Miracle Pill.
I thought it was important to become a dad. I don’t know. I never thought I was going to have kids. Never ever thought I was going to have kids for all those reasons that you just mentioned, the world can be so bad.
But it’s like, when I finally got sober and I was sober for a couple of years the selfishness that drove my life, the selfishness and the self-pity and the self-seeking behavior just kind of melted away. And I didn’t realize how deep a purpose, trying to guide someone through this little thing, this little tiny thing, and all of a sudden all the selfishness just kind of drained out of me.
I remember holding her when the doctor gave her to me and saying to myself, just saying this little prayer, “God, please don’t let me f**k up this little life. Give me the strength to be a good dad.”
Switching gears for a minute, I was thrilled to see that you guys were touring with Beach Slang. Didn’t Robby just produce their MPLS EP?
Did he? I didn’t know that.
Yeah, I read that. I just think it’s awesome how your band and Beach Slang aesthetically orbit around the Replacements. Alex James from Beach Slang is super up front about his Paul Westerberg influence, and the Goo Goo Dolls’ earliest work takes a similar track.
Among others things. Let’s not forget the Replacements just pretty much stole everything they did from like the New York Dolls and bands like that. So, whatever. But continue.
Well, I wondered if this touring combo had anything to do with your similar tastes.
I didn’t know that Robby had worked with them. Somebody said these guys are available to tour with you. And I was like, okay, I got a whole list of guys, a whole list of bands. And I went to Spotify and started listening to an album by them or it’s like a playlist. “This Is Beach Slang” or something like that.
And I got a lump in my throat. Because it was something, there was something so … I don’t know, man, just so emotional about the music and it brought me back to a time where I felt, I don’t know, that honest, attached with that naive. I don’t know what it is. You know what I mean? It’s just sort of, the music really like, it just struck a chord with me and that’s the best I can say. And yeah, it did, it reminded me of us, only better. When we were, like the Superstar Car Wash era.
Well, I just have one more question. You guys recorded Miracle Pill at Capitol Records in Hollywood…
Yeah, down in the basement. All the famous studios are down in there. We worked on Gutterflower in that building. There’s just good vibes. The woman who runs it, Paula Salvatore, is just, she’s amazing. She had a lot to do with getting some of the sounds on this album because I went to her and she is a Los Angeles institution. This woman is, she’s an institution. And, man, if you could ever talk to her the stories, unbelievable.
And she’s such sweetheart. I’m like, “Hey, I don’t know any gospel singers. Do you know any?” [She says,] “”eah. Yeah, honey. I know some, let me make a phone call.”
I don’t know any string players, could you help me find them? “Sure, no problem.” Boom, these badass string players show up. It’s like she’s just so supportive and wonderful, and that’s what makes the experience. Also, the place is full of really cool ghosts.
Yeah, was there anything you noticed this time that stuck with you?
There’s this one enormous photograph of Dean Martin and he’s singing inside a glass, well, a booth, a vocal booth with these big windows in it. And it’s not that I’m looking at him singing, but I’m looking through the window into the recording studio and there’s about two women.
I don’t know, there was just something about it that just made me go, why are there a couple of dozen women in the recording studio with Dean Martin? I’m like, oh yeah, of course. Dean Martin, that’s what happens when you’re Dean Martin.
Two boys named Goo – John Rzeznik and Robby Takac – are our special guests, performing and chatting about their new album “Miracle Pill,” their classic record-setting chart hit “Iris” and their uncommon longevity.
“I don’t know too many musicians who are on their first marriage,” is how singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik explains it to me. “I don’t think I know any.”
The deal is that the Goo Goo Dolls, anchored by Rzeznik and singer-bassist Robby Takac, formed in the mid-’80s and quickly put out five albums on, incredibly, Metal Blade Records, the label that also put out Slayer’s first album. The Goos’ own 1987 self-titled debut sounds like the Replacements at their forgot-to-take-out-the-trashiest, includes rowdy covers of both “Sunshine of Your Love” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” and ends with a slower but somehow rowdier original called “Don’t Beat My Ass (With a Baseball Bat).”
Then their sixth album, 1998’s blockbuster Dizzy Up the Girl, turned them into post-grunge prom kings, anchored by the growly power ballad “Iris,” which is forever synonymous with maudlin Meg Ryan rom-coms, forever synonymous with thousands of way more maudlin homemade mixtapes in the twilight of the actual-cassette mixtape era, forever synonymous with legit American greatness. In July, while in town to play the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, Lindsey Jordan, who leads the young, rad indie-rock band Snail Mail and was born the year after Dizzy Up the Girl came out, closed out a late-night club gig with an achingly sincere cover of “Iris,” joined by Sophie Allison, the equally rad young indie-rocker known as Soccer Mommy. The capacity crowd ate it up with aching sincerity; listen to the way everyone present bellows out the line, “When everything feels like the movies / Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.”
The Goo Goo Dolls have made six more albums post-“Iris,” including Friday’s spunky and sensitive Miracle Pill; they have mastered, as few alt-rock sensations of their era have mastered, the art of indulging nostalgia for their commercial peak without looking backward for so long that they turn into pillars of flannel or whatever. Last year, the band did a full tour to celebrate Dizzy Up the Girl’s 20th anniversary, but that only got them looking forward again. “Songs like ‘Slide,’ ‘Iris,’ ‘Broadway,’ they’re such a big part of who we are,” Rzeznik says. “I mean, I still feel very close to them. But it was kind of nice at the end of the tour to sort of pack that record up and put it away.”
Another uncool thing about the Goo Goo Dolls is they were never terribly cool even at their moment of greatest radio saturation. (“Name,” from 1995’s A Boy Named Goo, was their first massive growly power ballad.) “Everybody was too fucking cool for their own good,” is how Rzeznik remembers the ’90s. “There were certain musicians, you were out in L.A., and you’re rehearsing in a rehearsal room, and then there’s a common area. But if somebody from the wrong band was there, ‘Oh no, don’t talk to them. They’re not fucking cool.’”
Rzeznik longs for the camaraderie he sees in hip-hop and pop nowadays, a gentle collaborative spirit he gets in his own genre only via documentaries like 2019’s Echo in the Canyon, which celebrates the ’60s Laurel Canyon folk-rock scene and prominently features, as a celebrity interviewer, fellow ’90s hitmaker Jakob Dylan. The Goo Goo Dolls were not edgy when they broke through (the post-Nirvana power-pop jam “Naked” still rules, though) and remain out of step with whatever constitutes the rock vanguard now. Miracle Pill flirts with Imagine Dragons–style mechasaur bombast (“Fearless”) and the sort of scuffed-up synth pop prevalent on modern rock radio (“Money, Fame & Fortune” is skeptical about all three), but the record as a whole still sounds unmistakably like good old Johnny and Robby, both in their don’t-beat-my-ass Buffalo punk days and their late-Clinton-administration heartthrob days.
All the no-first-marriage talk aside, these guys committed to each other. “We’re all fascinated by young, shiny, beautiful things, you know?” Rzeznik says. “But being in a band is like being married. Are you going to do the work? Or are you going to complain to the fucking press about how unsatisfied you are? The relationship takes work. The band has always been me and Robby: We’ve had various drummers over the last 30 years, but none that did any writing of any consequence. You just have to do the work. We made an agreement: ‘All right, I’m sticking with you, you’re sticking with me. Pretty much fuck everybody else.’”
Of course the fuck everybody else mind-set is more prevalent, sonically, in the early years, when Rzeznick was writing the band’s first minor hit, 1993’s dead-ender salvo “We Are the Normal,” via snail mail with none other than the Replacements’ own Paul Westerberg, and Takac’s handful of tunes on each new Goos record pulled things in a noisier, raspier direction. (The boys first got into rock ‘n’ roll as surly teenagers via Ramones records, which Takac now lovingly describes to me as “like training wheels for guys in a band.”) On Miracle Pill’s would-be arena-pop anthem “Step in Line,” Takac mostly just sounds raspier. But there’s still a legit band dynamic at play here, steeped in three decades of resilience that has kept the Goo Goo Dolls alive even when their very genre appeared to be dead.
They have outlasted nearly everyone, fellow breakout bands and industry stooges alike. Rzeznik is still salty about the frigid reception his label gave the band’s 2010 album, Something for the Rest of Us, which is indeed a later-period highlight and a more cynical spin on U2-style stadium-rock grandiosity. “They had expectations of what we were supposed to be,” Rzeznik says of his Warner Bros. masters at the time. “I’m supposed to be the ‘big love ballad’ guy. But I came in and delivered an album that was pretty fucking heavy and dark.” (“They loved it when we dropped it off,” Takac observes.)
“We’ve been at Warner Bros. since 1990,” Rzeznik says. “We’ve been through 27 presidents, 5,000 staff members. It’s like, we’ve been there longer than anybody. I mean, had we actually had a job at that record company, we could retire and have a pension. We outlasted all of them.”
What’s cool about the Goo Goo Dolls is that if you catch them on tour this fall, you will for sure get the pure nostalgia jolt that probably lured you into the theater: Dizzy Up the Girl’s “Broadway,” in retrospect, feels like the more hopeful sequel to the Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular,” as delivered by the earnest and skillful Replacements disciples who fashioned the most sustainable and thus non-Replacements-like career out of their devotion. But the Goos can also play both very old and very new songs that are far less familiar but still feel familiar without feeling stagnant. And they can also play “Iris,” a world-conquering signature tune so indelible that back in 2011, when Taylor Swift played Madison Square Garden, she welcomed Rzeznik to the stage to sing it with her.
“What shocked the hell out of me was that, I mean, I’m on stage with arguably the biggest star in the world, and she was very, very nice to me,” Rzeznik says now. “She said my name to that audience. They applauded. I was blown away. Might have just been everyone’s moms.”
Probably not just them, though.
Out of the blue collar city of Buffalo, New York, Goo Goo Dolls have been one of the more successful Alternative Rock bands of the last twenty years. Rising to stardom in 1995 with the radio hit “Name,” the band would head on an upward trajectory with the release of the mega single “Iris” in 1998. Recently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their multi-platinum album Dizzy Up The Girl on tour last year, now Goo Goo Dolls return with their twentieth overall studio album Miracle Pill on Friday, September 13th.
Their ninth overall LP as a part of Warner Bros., a run that began back in 1993 with the highly underrated Superstar Carwash, Miracle Pill marks the fourth consecutive release where the band has put out an album in three year intervals. A minor footnote to the average consumer, in truth, it means they have remained very consistent with new material, an impressive feat for an artist this late into their career.
These factors in mind, anyone who has followed the Goo Goo Dolls since their start over thirty years ago when they were a Garage Punk act, through their middle years when they mirrored a stylistic approach to The Replacements, or even the mainstream years when they dabbled in acoustic-laden Alternative Rock, understand that this band is constantly changing. That is why it should come as no surprise that main Songwriter/Vocalist/Guitarist John Rzeznik and his brother in music Bassist/Vocalist Robby Takac switch things up yet again for Miracle Pill.
An album complete with eleven tracks, instead of wallowing in the depression that is the modern world where bad news seems to be around every corner, they opt for a more human, hopeful approach. With that, Miracle Pill is often bright, colorful, and yes, very Pop. Not much of a surprise in respect to the Pop aspects of the music, Goo Goo Dolls has distanced themselves from their Alternative Rock sound with each passing album starting with 2006’s Let Love In, and most exemplified with 2013’s Magnetic. That said, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should be expecting Dizzy Up The Girl 2.0 or something that resembles 2002’s impressive follow-up Gutterflower.
Rzeznik and Takac have been in this Rock-n-Roll whirlwind for a long time and they are bound to evolve as people, so why shouldn’t their songs? Approaching Miracle Pill with this mindset it is easy to see the foundation these songs are built on is a direct reflection of life experience: like all of us, they have had their share of letdowns, mistakes, and lessons learned. This is evident right from the album’s lead single/title-track “Miracle Pill,” an extremely catchy, shiny tune which talks about overcoming the ups and downs of life. A similar theme is felt with upbeat, guitar-driven “Indestructible,” where Rzeznik continues to confess regrets and hopes to rip open the curtains of the dark room inside his mind, letting the light in for a fresh start. Sound familiar? It should, because it is feelings such as these which we all have, and that is where each of these new songs hook you.
It is true that life experiences are unique but when it all boils down we all have quite similar situations – or at least share a universal hope for a better tomorrow. That is what Miracle Pill is really all about, and with that Goo Goo Dolls take you on a journey full of heartfelt emotion and well-constructed tunes. Fresh, the songs do not consist of similar tones, an aspect that often can a make a record feel long and winded. Instead, each piece stands alone with a very uplifting, light texture that you can easily listen to. This is evident with songs such as the Indie Rock styled “Money, Fame & Fortune,” complete with irresistible keyboard hook, or the thought-provoking mellow Takac sung “Life’s A Message,” perhaps the bassist’s best composition in sometime.
In the end, does Miracle Pill feel like a very Pop album? Yes, but that does not diminish the strength of the songs or the approach the Goo Goo Dolls chose to take. They managed to create something that can stand up with today’s sound while still keeping artistic integrity. An album that is as much immediate as it is a slow burn simultaneously, Cryptic Rock gives Miracle Pill 4 out of 5 stars.
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