[19 June 2013]
The Goo Goo Dolls have been around since first forming in 1985. Twenty-seven years later, the group continues going strong, releasing their tenth studio album, Magnetic, via Warner Bros. As an album itself, Magnetic is solid, but often trends middle-of-the-road and safe. When it percolates, it does so convincingly, but there are far too few moments that absolutely rock your socks off. Still, Goo Goo Dolls do enough with a driving groove, acoustic guitars, and solid vocals by frontman/songwriter John Rzeznik to please dedicated fans.
“Rebel Beat” kicks things off spiritedly, with Rzeznik in good voice, supported by bright, sunny production work. The verses are solid, but things truly take off on the chorus, where Rzeznik belts “Hey you, look around! / can you hear that noise / it’s a rebel sound / we got nowhere else to go.” Not the second coming, “Rebel Beat” is a nice starting point. Proceeding cut “When the World Breaks Your Heart” isn’t too shabby itself, propelled by a driving groove accentuated by syncopated snare. Strings add a nice timbre to the overall production, while the chorus once again is the main attraction, highlighting the titular lyrics (“When the world breaks your heart / I can put it back together”). Schmaltz eliminates the intended profundity, but ultimately, “When the World Breaks Your Heart” meets the benchmarks.
“Slow It Down” receives a nice folksy nature given Goo Goo Dolls’ affinity for acoustic guitars. More predictable than the previous two, “Slow It Down” lacks a rousing, excitability factor. The unwinding towards the end is a nice effect, though it was still foreseeable. “Caught in the Storm” similarly suffers from calculable script, but isn’t a miss per se. Like everything else, the songwriting form is impeccably executed and production work sound. The lyrics fail to exhibit a wow factor (“I’m caught in this storm / we call love / so alone come find me”) but the central idea easily decipherable.
“Come to Me” raises the bar, establishing itself as one of the set’s most capable selections. Rhythmic acoustic guitar rears it head, creating and shaping an excellent aura. Repetitive non-syllabic lyrics prior to the chorus infuse some much needed personality (“Do, do, do, do, do”) while the lyrics of the chorus are thoughtful and gentlemen-like (“Come to me my sweetest friend / can you feel my heart again / I’ll take you back where you belong / and this will be our favorite time”). The momentum remains strong through “Bringing on the Light”, a driving, uptempo cut that lacks elite lyricism, but is potent enough. Robby Takac’s vocals prove more ‘biting’ here than much of Magnetic, which is a welcome contrast.
“More of You” proceeds, incorporating an electronic aspect. While the timbrel shift is a welcome one, “More of You” feels a bit rushed and missing that extra something. Even so, the “ooh” vocal riffs are a thoughtful touch. “Bulletproof Angel” is another good effort that needs an extra push to make it great. Rzeznik’s emotional intentions are perceptible on the refrain (“Angel, you’re bulletproof / you’re so high, you see the truth”), but it fails to give the level of connection it potentially could have with more development. “Last Hot Night” is stronger, benefiting most from its hooky, fun chorus (“It’s the last hot night, the last hot night in America / it’s the last hot night, the last hot night in the world”). Penultimate cut “Happiest of Days” is much more blasé and boring than the desired effect, while closing cut”“Keep the Car Running” doesn’t offer any truly new, vibrant ideas. The effort closes less impressively than it initiated.
All said and done, Magnetic is by no means a truly magnetic album. It is never bad, but rarely (if ever) is it describable as being breathtakingly great. Too many songs are formally organized with the same approach and formula in mind. Distinctiveness takes a hit because of this, with only a few notable exceptions. The band are revered veterans, but even past their primes, a shakeup wouldn’t kill them.