PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Goo Goo Dolls: What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art and Commerce

Nikki Tranter

Goo Goo Dolls

What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art and Commerce

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2001-05-29
Amazon
iTunes

A long time ago, in a nightclub far far away, I met a man who introduced himself to me as John. He and his band had just played a "killer" show I didn't see. I had stumbled in after midnight to wait for the bar girl to give me a ride home. I told my new, tattooed friend how I had never heard of his little band to which he said to me three words. Those words not only sobered me up dramatically, they forced me to go out the next day and buy as many Goo Goo Dolls albums as I could find, managing three. I can't go back in time and tell John Rzeznik just what his words meant to me, though oddly, I am sure he might already know. Aww.

What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art and Commerce is a collection of the Goo Goo Dolls' mostly unheard greatest hits. It's kinda like when Prince released his "B-Sides" collection only not. This is more a mixture of the songs you've missed, in reverse chronological order from the most recent Dizzy up the Girl to the Goo's self-titled debut.

As a retrospective, they don't come much better than this. While many classics have been omitted, the collection showcases the Goo's excessive lyrical ability and musical skill. They speak with an honesty and maturity rarely seen in garage music never losing their talent for shenanigans-based junk rock while all the while proving melody to be their forte. Each track is highly singable and infectiously danceable whether or not intended. And while for the fans, there really are no surprises, it's all a hell of a lot of goo-d fun.

Dizzy up the Girl

"Bulletproof" kicks off the album exactly as expected -- with a garage guitar song fuelled by a strong melody and life-worn lyrics. Rzeznik's breathy voice echoes seriousness and sincerity while Robby Takac's backing vocals act like the devil on his shoulder.

"All Eyes on Me" retains the theme of dreams unchasable, while "Acoustic #3" speaks to a lost audience in a fresh recording complete with haunting, staccato strings. Where John's lyrics seem to edge towards an entire generation of disenchanted folks, Takac's seem to have a specific muse in mind. His brilliant "Amigone" livens up the first section of the disc with a strainingly efficient vocal sheltering a fast-paced rock-rant filled with clever words.

A Boy Named Goo

The Goo Goo Dolls have chosen to include five tracks from Boy and while all very worthy of their places here seem to highlight just what has been left out. Where's "Slave Girl"? I shouted. Where's "Long Way Down"? What, no "Eyes Wide Open"? My dreams of this album kicking the need for building the perfect Goo tape for the car had been dashed. However, chosen was the gorgeous "Naked", "Burning Up" (another ripping Robby vocal) and the anthemic "Flat Top".

John and Robby experiment with everything in their lyrics from a controlling government ("it's falling all around us / is this some kind of joke they're trying to pull on us") to blind faith ("a visionary coward says that anger can be power") to self-deprecation ("you're living from a personalised manual from hell"). Strange that none of these tunes found their way onto radios throughout the land, though somewhat ironically they did end up on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 on Steve's birthday yacht no less. Hmm.

"Ain't That Unusual", the stand out track on Boy, is also included with it's glorious noise and burned out, bitch frozen lyrics like "sorry I put them words in your mouth but you wouldn't talk to me." John's simple way of saying what other writers stuff into volumes is intriguing. It's not like grammar matters when you just say what you're feeling ("could you talk to me honestly / 'cause I never heard a word you said now and I ain't just bein' mean").

On the US release of What I Leaned . . ., the fifth Boy installment is "Long Way Down" while us antipodean listeners are treated to "Name" which didn't achieve the mega-hit status down here in Australia that it did over there. "Name" is undeniably special with John again getting out his rage at the world by creating a song that is really an acceptance of how life is ("grew up way too fast now there's nothing to believe / and reruns all become our history"). Personal by definition, it's about anonymity and frustration and the need to find a quiet place to shelter the burn.

Superstar Car Wash

The rockin' pop of the newer Goo Goo Dolls tracks continues here interspersed with a punk vibe the boys were originally going for. "Fallin' Down", "Cuz You're Gone" and "Another Second Time Around" show no regression easily holding their own. "We Are the Normal" is an instant classic in much the same vain as "Name". "Girl Right Next to Me" is a splendid mix of naiveté and self-consciousness ("and I don't even know what to say so I'm thinkin' out loud") with a gripping '70s-inspired chorus ("and when you dream 17 I ain't there so I don't care / 'cause all my dreams are 23").

"Lucky Star" is a cute pop song sewed up to suit Robby's punk style while "On the Lie" delivers a perfect blend of sarcasm and romance with lines like "I'd hang and swap clichés all night but I'm not in love with you".

Hold Me Up

The melody holds out while the songs from here on in are slightly beer stained. While this album had all the potential in the world to transport the Goo Goo Dolls onto the musical map, it was released at a time when hair rock was fading, commercial punk was all but unknown, grunge didn't exist and the pop machine was refuelling. In the wake of the New Kids and MC Hammer, the Goo Goo Dolls were without a genre and, sadly, "Hold Me Up" never stood a chance.

"Two Days in February", by far the band's greatest effort, has been a concert favourite for years. With a style John Rzeznik has perfected, "Two Days in February" is simple in its meaning, yet complex in its message. The guys have rerecorded it here and it remains breathtakingly brilliant. The original version (dedicated to "Chief Doug . . . and the guy across the street") sounds as though it was recording during a busking session with cars whizzing past and girls nattering in the background, though here it is crisp and shiny and worthy of single release in its own right. It's a sarcastic love (hate?) song about lover-done-gone heartbreak and that universal disgust at seeing former girlfriends or boyfriends actually happy while you're at home "breaking fingers" to call them.

"Just The Way You Are", "There You Are" (almost a sequel to "Two Days") and "Laughing" fill out this portion of the album continuing the fun, yet not exploring Hold Me Up's more experimental side with classics like "Kevin's Song", "22 Seconds" and "Hey".

Jed and Goo Goo Dolls

The first two albums in the Goo Goo Dolls collection get a slight look in with only one song a piece playing more like, well, one song.

"Up Yours" is belting, punk-ravaged, head-banging rock with the unapologetic lyrics so fervently splattered though most of these initial tunes ("yeah fuck your suicide it's all bullshit 'cause I tried"). While "I'm Addicted" is a rollicking good time, it is not a patch on the songs from the boys' first album that I wanted to hear purely "Iris" fans shriek over. This is the collection's only downfall. The pure hilarity of crazy man songs like "Hardsores" ("and every time you wait / you have to masturbate / oh, you know it well . . . wait, don't stop!"), "Don't Beat My Ass with a Baseball Bat" ("things don't look to good to me / I feel I'm out of luck / and all because of swollen glands / and just one stupid fuck . . . I'll beat your ass with a baseball bat bitch") and "Hammerin' Eggs" ("Dog corn another me buy gonna I'm mama") are strangely absent. Surely the boys aren't embarrassed about these pre-stylist extremities? No, I like to think they left them for the real fans.

While it's obviously all about the music here, for reasons including the fact that hits like "Slide", "Iris" or "Broadway" have not been added, no new tracks have been recorded and there is no glossy close-up of the boys' pretty faces on the cover, it's definitely about the music people are gonna like. And like it they should. Sexy hairdo or no sexy hairdo.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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