Goo Goo Dolls Evolve and Raise the Bar with 'Miracle Pill'

Photo: Mark Dellas / Courtesy of BB Gun Press

Goo Goo Dolls evolve their sound and release new music that easily stands alongside the best of their career with Miracle Pill.

Miracle Pill
Goo Goo Dolls


13 September 2019

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.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.