Review Summary: Expired milk.
When you’ve been around for as long as the Goo Goo Dolls have, there’s a few inevitable crossroads that you’ll face: how to follow up on the debut, the direction of the band after its first hit album, when and how to experiment, and ultimately how to deal with prolonged success. For the Goo Goo Dolls, their answer has been identical across the board: change nothing
. It may sound like a bad thing, but when you’re a mainstream rock outfit with an enormous following there isn’t much to be gained from trying something wildly different. So after nine albums of listening to this band repeat both its successes and its failures, opener ‘Rebel Beat’ may cause your ears to do a little bit of a double-take.
Complete with a danceable rhythm, a shout-along chorus, and elegant piano in the verses, ‘Rebel Beat’ possesses an almost tropical air. While it’s not a complete one-eighty, it’s the widest turn of the dial that the Dolls have attempted in their quarter century old history – and it revitalizes an aspect of the band that has been dead for over a decade: creativity
. Truthfully, it’s as close to Train’s ‘Hey Soul Sister’ as the Goo Goo Dolls ever been, and even though that comparison sets the bar low from an artistic perspective, it’s more the idea of change that beckons the listener to continue on after years of knowing exactly
what was coming next. For once, we have the pleasure of expecting more.
And what idiots we are. Despite the bright, oddly vintage artwork and the hope brought about by ‘Rebel Beat’, we are ultimately left with the same band that tried to write ‘Iris’ in about ten different ways. It’s not the worst thing in the world, because the Goo Goo Dolls have done a lot of stuff right in order to establish themselves as perhaps the
premier radio rock band of the last couple decades, but it rings all the more hollow after being given a taste of experimentation. ‘When the World Breaks Your Heart’ assumes the obligatory role of poignant mid-tempo rocker, taking up cliché lyrics such as “when the world breaks your heart, I’ll put it back together” and thrusting them upon a gorgeous instrumental canvas. It’s Goo Goo Dolls 101, and you’ll hear a lot more of that as the record goes on.
generally lacks the catchiness and vitality of past efforts, as the band tries in vein to reinvent the wheel but fails to accomplish anything as impressive as ‘Iris’, ‘Here is Gone’, ‘Black Balloon’, ‘Let Love In’, [insert hit single here]. The aforementioned ‘Rebel Beat’ and ‘When the World Breaks Your Heart’ are probably the album’s best bets for seeing commercial success, but after that front-loaded beginning there really isn’t anything that is worth listening to twice. ‘Come to Me’, while a mild-mannered acoustic track, screams for attention in its obvious attempt to rekindle whatever magic ‘Acoustic #3’ possessed all the way back in 1998. ‘Slow It Down’, ‘Caught In The Storm’, ‘Come to Me’, and ‘More of You’ all lack soul, let alone any appreciable lyrical value in order to carry the dull songwriting that Rzeznik and co. slapped together. It’s unfortunate, but about eighty percent of Magnetic
consists of forgettable melodies and half-hearted retreads of songs that, after ten albums, are almost certainly beyond their reach now.
If the band deserves some credit, it’s in the production. Unlike their last several albums, there is actually a degree of grit here – ushering us away from a long era of sleek studio make-up. There’s still nothing here that approaches the rawness of ‘Dizzy’ or ‘Amigone’, but the absence of “studio magic” is noticeable and would have lent Magnetic
an air of authenticity if it wasn’t for the glaringly un
authentic lyrics. Also, Robby Takac’s vocal contributions on ‘Happiest of Days’ are perhaps the best he’s ever done, providing a lone bright spot on the back half of the album’s tracklist. All in all though, none of this is enough to save Magnetic
In the end, the main question surrounding this release might be “why, after ten albums of changing nothing, is it suddenly not enough?” It’s a fair question to ask, and perhaps the answer lies within the listener. Younger fans of mainstream music may find the appeal in Magnetic
because they weren’t mired by the songs’ earlier counterparts and the massive amount of airtime they received. But for anyone who has been around to see this band’s heyday, it is safe to say that there is absolutely nothing more that The Goo Goo Dolls have to offer. They’ve finally filled up their quota for following the same exact approach over and over again – they’ve gotten old, they’re shells of who they used to be, they’re expired milk – pick an analogy, but no matter how you slice it, these guys are done.