The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
Goo Goo Dolls
Who could have guessed that these guys would one day resort to creating corporate product for forlorn punks? It seems like only yesterday when guitarist/singer/songwriter Johnny Rzeznik served as a welcome distraction from the lackluster output of bassist/singer/songwriter Robby Takac, but apparently, they have switched roles on Gutterflower. This time around, it’s Rzeznik who gets tedious, while Takac provides some relief from the glossy bathos. Rzeznik appears distracted by the sudden thrust into the spotlight that was brought on by "Iris". Throughout Gutterflower, he appears to be exerting too much effort on the music industry’s impression of what people expect from a ‘hit’ songwriter. On the band’s previous album, Dizzy Up the Girl, they graduated from ‘the rock and roll college of undeniable hooks’, hitting a stride that suggested an epiphany of sorts for these guys. Gutterflower is full of them, too, tugging the listener in while Rzeznik sings his lyrics of troubled love. The only problem is that I’m having trouble hearing the band through all of the production gloss. This album presents a Madame Tussaud version of the Goo Goo Dolls; accurate in detail but gaudy by nature. The songs are all good, but they also seem transparently formulaic.
"Here Is Gone" is the collection’s best song (and the first single from the album), but it is initially disappointing because its opening suggests Radiohead’s "High and Dry" without measuring up that song’s melodic excellence. It shares the same theme as "High and Dry" as well, with lyrics about abject heartbreak and rejection. As I said, though, it’s the collection’s best song, and it is maddeningly effective in its portrayal of unrequited love. Others fare much worse. But elsewhere, Rzeznik fares much worse. When he can sing a line as mundane as "It’s hard to be free when you’re down on your knees" (in "What a Scene"), he’s as convincing as Jon Bon Jovi, made even worse by the monotonous, repetitive melody. By comparison, the efforts of Robby Takac sound almost enlightened, even when he indulges himself in his Keith Richards fixation. If measured by its presumed commercial success, and its ability to tug at vulnerable hearts, Gutterflower succeeds. But, if judged by its tendency toward product over artistry, it’s a wax replica of the real thing.