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

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.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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