The Goo Goo Dolls have been around for an incredible 33 years; and a mainstay of singles and album charts for the past two and a half decades. When the coronavirus pandemic put paid to their plans of touring their most recent album (2019's invigorating Miracle Pill), the band decided to play around with some holiday favourites. This led to a creative surge of energy that has resulted in a whole Goo Goo Dolls seasonal album called It's Christmas All Over. In these modern times when track listing for opuses can run up to 16-18 songs long it is refreshing that this pop-rock gem clocks in at a taut but thoroughly enjoyable ten songs. It is fascinating to hear the guys infuse the songs with a variety of genres, playing about to give even the most tried and tested of holiday standards something new.
The album starts with the lads interpretation of the Tom Petty classic, Christmas All Over Again. A sprightly guitar-percussion groove is given some festive shimmer thanks to jingling bells and sliding bass. Johnny's vocal gives a sense of ennui with the season, yet soon finds the magic of Christmas. Its a finger clicking opener that ably sets the scene. Shake Hands With Santa Claus sees the Dolls go big band, with huge brassy statements and icy cool vibes. It makes the Louis Prima song a swinging jam that feels like you are seeing it performed in your favourite dive bar, dimly lit with green and red fairy lights. This Is Christmas (an original song) introduces some lovely piano that swathes the song's charming melody with a graceful accompaniment, whilst the earnest nature of the lyrics shines through with every single note. The chorus just soars as high as the brightest star in the firmament.
The novelty smash Christmas Don't Be Late is treated to a serious interpretation that makes it positively simmer with anticipation and longing. The elegance of the string-laden score makes it feel like it traversed the passages of time, mingling beautifully with Johnny's raspy voice. Better Days follows and is, of course, the Goo Goo Dolls own song sung by Sydney McGorman (offspring of Jimmy, no less). It has always felt like a Christmas song and sung with the innocence of a child this highlights the majesty and optimism of the decade plus old lyrics. Enchanting. The album's second original song, You Ain't Getting Nothin', is a devilish, bluesy affair that is also the album's most theatrical. It feels like it is primed for a new Grinch musical, with stand up bass and muted trumpet lending to the swaggering aura the new future favourite oldie emanates.
That traditional Hollywood movie glamour of Christmas Don't Be Late continues on Let It Snow. There's an effortless warmth to the symbiotic nature of instrumental and vocal. It conjures up images of cozy firesides and winter wonderlands, whilst the music all coalesces to give an intimate vibe. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas flows perfectly from this - a laid back, lilting take that would make Judy proud. The sincerity and heartfelt wish of the lyrics feels particularly poignant considering what the world is living through right now. And just to uplift your spirits further is an organ driven Hark The Herald Angels - nothing like the Goo Goo Dolls have ever done before but works wonderfully. There's a reverence to the performance that helps calm your anxieties and let your worries fade away. The album closes with a shin dig of a Christmas Party - a instrumental medley of holiday playlist favourites (with the fab Union Square 5) that I won't spoil for you here, but definitely has you kicking up your heels. This album? It's Christmas all over.