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.