Someone give John Rzeznik a Prozac. Or at least a hug. On the Goo Goo Dolls’ seventh release, Gutterflower, the front man sings of love gone wrong, betrayal, loneliness, and how life isn’t always perfect even when you’re a rock star. The result is a collection of radio-ready ballads and guitar-driven rockers that are harder than many of the songs on the band’s 1998 endeavor, Dizzy Up The Girl.
The album’s first single “Here Is Gone” uses the same pop-rock formula that the band used to create hits like “Slide” and “Name,” as Rzeznik comes to the realization that he was never really what his lover wanted. He laments “I have no solution to the sound of this pollution in me/ And I was not the answer/ So forget you ever thought it was me,” while trying to defend himself in the midst of a break-up. “Sympathy” also finds the raspy-voiced singer apologizing for his own behavior over only acoustic guitars, stating that he’s “killing [himself] from the inside out.”
Gutterflower also features hard-rock tracks similar to those on 1995’s A Boy Named Goo. In “What Do You Need?” Rzeznik combines a throaty murmur with loud guitars and drums as he begs to find out what he’s done to cause the end of a relationship, asking, “What do you need from me tonight/ The truth is so complicated now.” The song “Truth Is A Whisper” tackles a similar theme, with the singer pleading for someone he can trust, “You know all I am/ Feel this moment in you/ Can you teach me to believe in something.” Once again, Rzeznik uses his voice to convey a tone of painful loss – a quality that serves to give him the image of a constantly tormented, hopeless romantic who wants nothing other than to be everything his lover is looking for. In the opener, “Big Machine,” he tells a romantic interest, “Love and sex and loneliness/ Take what’s yours and leave the rest” over an upbeat rock background.
Heartbreak is revisited in “It’s Over,” which begins solemnly: an almost unrecognizable Rzeznik singing deeply while the music builds to a guitar-laden power ballad with a despair-filled chorus, “I can’t stand without you/ But it’s over to you/ I can’t find the answer when you’re gone.” The song is reminiscent of the Goo Goo Dolls’ past gloomy hits, such as City of Angel’s soundtrack tear-jerker “Iris” (also on Dizzy Up the Girl). The midtempo rocker “Think About Me” finds the singer puzzled by his girlfriend’s emotions, grasping the fact that she’s no longer interested in what he has to offer her, “You take it so slowly/ And your eyes look so lonely/ Now it’s only about me/ When you think about me.” The song sounds ready-made for rock stations across America.
Social commentary is offered up in the catchy-yet-aggressive sounding “What A Scene,” which seems to poke fun at the glamorous teen-pop music that has been dominating MTV and Top 40 stations in recent years. “How does it feel when you find out what you’re not gonna be/ They give you your image and the things you believe/ Open your eyes and tell me what did you see/ And I just think you thought it surreal,” Rzeznik declares, trying to expose the spurious world of popular music.
Bassist and former lead singer Robby Takac takes over singing duties on four of Gutterflower’s twelve tracks. On the Goo Goo Dolls’ more recent CDs, Takac has supplied punk-rock tunes while Rzeznik writes the most-likely-to-be played-on-the- radio-way-too-much songs. On Gutterflower, however, Takac seems to be competing with Rzeznik with more mainstream music, but lacks the voice to carry this off. “You Never Know” is the best example of this; as Takac’s hoarse voice informs the listener that “you never take/ a promise from a man who sheds his skin.” The song is somewhat more optimistic than Rzeznik’s usual fare, and Takac’s attitude is a break from his bandmate’s melancholy musings. The bassist’s three other offerings, “Up, Up, Up,” “Smash,” and “Tucked Away” are similar to “You Never Know,” providing cheerful rhythms, prominent guitars, and relatively cheery lyrics about (surprise) a relationship that has ended with broken hearts.
Gutterflower displays the Goo Goo Dolls’ ability to write radio-friendly with straightforward rock guitar riffs and heart-wrenching lyrics. While musically quite similar to Dizzy Up The Girl, the group has proven that they can produce love ballads as well as appealing heavier songs, exemplifying why everyone still knows their name.
Archived article by Ariel Ronneburger