If you didn't know already, the Goo Goo Dolls are the authors of the hit song "Iris", the song with the (in)famous chorus, "And I don't want the world to see me, cause I don't think that they'd understand...." blah blah you all know it. For many people, this is a perfectly acceptable reason to hate this band with a passion, as that song was almost constantly on the radios in its glory days. However, what many don't know is that their biggest album, Dizzy Up the Girl, from which Iris hails, is also home to some of the best alternative rock ever written. But that's what reviews are for....
Johnny Rzeznik-Vocals, Guitar
Robby Takac-Vocals, Bass
As I said before, everyone knows Iris, and everyone also probably knows "Slide", the other hit single from this album. The former, while a masterpiece itself, has been milked too dry for me to fully enjoy anymore. However, Slide didn't quite get murdered by the radio stations and MTV like its big brother, plus I think it's a much more creative and well-written song. That pretty much sums up the geography of Dizzy Up the Girl, and actually Goo Goo Dolls as a whole: their best songs are hidden away on their albums, and their radio hits are mediocre slivers of what they are fully capable of in terms of songwriting.
First of all, I'd like to admit a little bias before I fully begin. The Goo Goo Dolls are what got me into music as a hardcore listener in the first place. However, unlike some bands, whose charms wear off as the listener's ear increases in maturity, the Goo Goo Dolls remain just as wonderful as they were at the beginning. John Rzeznik is one of the VERY BEST songwriters ever, and that's saying alot. His music is unique and rich due to open-tuned guitars, and his lyrics are often nothing short of genius. And while Robby Takac invariably falls short of his frontman, he's lately proven to be a capable songwriter and bassist. So while I definitely think I'm biased, I also think that anyone from any musical background can enjoy this album and ultimately this band.
Okay now that we have that cleared up.... this album is nothing short of incredible. The spell it casts over the open-minded listener is sensational, broken only by Robby's occasional songs (which are definitely lower quality than what he normaly does). I'll use Black Balloon as an example. THIS is the song that Iris should have been. It's similarly structured, but opens with a gorgeous harmonic intro. Then the acoustic guitar kicks in as John sings his beutiful lyrics. MUCH more interesting than a chorus that gets repeated 5 times. If you dowload just one song, get this one. It's one of the most powerful ballads of the 90's and of all time.
Ballads are surely not the only thing this disc offers. My favorite song of all time, "All Eyes On Me", finds its home tucked between two mediocre Robby songs. The (I hate to use this word) soaring chorus sends shivers down my spine, with John belting out lyrics about the troubles of trying not to conform. ("It's so hard to be someone strung out from today, and all that you knew slips away") String arrangements, which BTW are suprisingly common throughout this album, interject during the easily strummed verses, and there's a great solo during the final run. Awesome, awesome song.
Other highlights include Acoustic #3, Dizzy, and Hate This Place, the first of which can be thought of as the forerunner to the Gutterflower hit "Sympathy". It's just John, his guitar, and some lovely strings floating around in the background. Dizzy, a fairly hard-rocking song, has a pleasant suprise with a key signature change from verse to chorus. Hate This Place, the closing track, sounds similar to "Ain't That Unusual" from A Boy Named Goo, and boasts some great solos and riffs from John's guitar.
All in all, Dizzy Up the Girl is a near-perfect album. John's songs are flawlessly written and executed, and while Robby's songs, as always, drab down the overall experience a bit, they don't kill the magic of this piece of art. You may even find yourself enjoying Iris again, as its location in the CD, right after a ballad and before a dark rocker-song, ensure maximum emotional experience. It certainly does sound better on a disc than it does by itself. Try it out, or at least download one of the songs I mentioned. I was amazed when I first heard it.
All Eyes On Me