Review Summary: A thorough and excellent collection of songs by one of the most underrated bands in history.
In 1999, a few years after they had broken up, Gin Blossoms released a greatest hits album “Outside Looking In: The Best of the Gin Blossoms”. It does seem strange that a band would release a greatest hits collection represented by only two studio albums, “New Miserable Experience” and “Congratulations, I’m Sorry”. Not that I’m complaining.
Doug Hopkins, the former lead guitarist for the band, wrote several catchy songs and guitar riffs for the band, which would help the Blossoms reach the mainstream. Unfortunately, he had a very severe alcohol problem, so bad that the record company threatened to drop the band if the other members did not kick him out. So the band fired him. Later, while trying to rehabilitate from his alcohol addiction, Hopkins found out about his old band having their best hits on the radio from the songs that he wrote. Soon after that, he committed suicide. The death of their former friend deeply affected the band, which in part led to their break up just a few years later.
But during their time together, Gin Blossoms formed many great songs, and this album does an excellent job of showing it. Their formula is relying on simple songs, blending pop and rock together, and using catchy guitar riffs and lyrics. This kind of style would be shown later by bands such as Matchbox Twenty and The Goo Goo Dolls. This band is interesting in the fact that their lyrics although usually are mellow and solemn, are often performed in a happier, upbeat kind of style. Vocalist Robin Wilson, although sings similarly on every song on the album, still has the perfect voice for the style of music that the band puts together. The iconic 90’s songs “Hey Jealousy” and “Found out About You” both of which were written by Hopkins, are flat out amazing songs. Brilliant lyrics, very catchy riffs, and excellent vocals provide the strength of those two songs. Other hit singles from the band, “Follow You Down”, “Until I Fall Away”, and “Mrs. Rita” which were written by other members of the band although are not quite as fantastic as the two that Hopkins wrote, are still simple and fun songs to listen and sing along to. Most of the other songs on this album did not chart well, or were never released to the radio. However, several of them are still great songs. “Not only Numb”, “As Long as it Matters”, and “Allison Road” are enjoyable, and even “Whitewash” is a fun listen with its upbeat and faster guitar work. However, I’m not a big fan of “Cajun Song” and “Just South of Nowhere”, the lyrics and flow of those two songs just aren’t strong enough and “Day Job” sounds too heavy and too dark to fit in with the style of the band's music. That’s just my opinion though.
“Pieces of the Night” is the other song that Hopkins wrote that is on the album. Unlike the other two songs written by him on this album, this song took a while to grow on me, but after a few listens, I’ve learned to really appreciate it. The late Hopkins shows his gifted talent in the lyrics, and Wilson executes them very well. The album ends on a very bittersweet song, one of their final radio hits “Til I hear it From You”. This song was only released on rarer editions of the Blossoms “Congratulations, I’m Sorry” album that are harder to find, so it great to have an album that has this song on it. It’s emotionally sung lyrics blend well with the guitar work, and really is the perfect song for this album to end on.
Some people have complained that Gin Blossoms songs sound too similar with each other. That’s actually a reasonable complaint, and I can see why some would say that. After a few listens of the album though, I was able to tell the differences between all of the songs, and true, while most of the songs do share similarities, they are enjoyable and well put together songs. Overall, this album does not disappoint, it is one of my favorite albums ever, and so I encourage you to find a copy of this if you have not done so. It is also my pleasure to inform you that Gin Blossoms are back together again, and have released two albums since their reunion, “Major Lodge Victory” and “No Chocolate Cake”. If you enjoy this greatest hits album, check them out!