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.