Review Summary: "A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio, and I won't tell no one your name"
The Goo Goo Dolls were kings of the world in 1998, riding a high off the tracks “Iris” and “Slide”. Dizzy Up The Girl
were nearly unavoidable, with songs being in almost constant rotation. The truth is, however, by the time Dizzy Up The Girl
was released, The Goo Goo Dolls had already peaked. A Boy Named Goo
, released in 1996, showed the perfect melding of their earlier, punk inspired stylings with the adult alternative style that made them radio darlings. Johnny Reznik is obviously the main draw of The Goo Goo Dolls and A Boy Named Goo
. He has an uncanny ability to get the most of his three talents: his ear for guitar melody, a charismatic and formidable vocal range, and a knack for clever lyrics. It is a wonder that after Reznik came into his own on Superstar Car Wash
that the band ever let bassist Robby Takic sing songs again. Reznik carries each and every song in some way or another; even the tracks with Takic on vocals are held together entirely by Reznik’s guitar playing.
There are three bad songs on A Boy Named Goo
. Yes, Takic is the vocalist for every single one of them. His vocals seemingly force the band to write in a way that causes them to repeat the same beats and as a result all of Takic’s songs are basically interchangeable. Luckily the Reznik tracks so often hit ridiculous high points that it doesn’t matter what the Takic songs sound like. The Takic songs could be nothing but progressive polka and for some reason it doesn’t affect the overall quality of the album. Songs like “Flat Top” and “Ain’t That Unusual” are so perfectly composed that when they end and a Takic song rears its ugly head, the listener is too busy basking in the afterglow to care. It is odd to think that the quality of a quarter of the songs on an album don’t matter, but they truly have no effect on the overall product. It is most likely because the great songs force the listener to play them on repeat over and over, then moving on to the next flawless song, playing that to death, and so on and so forth. The worst (best?) song for this is “Name”.
“Name” is quite possibly the most impeccable song ever written. Captivating lyrics meld the cynicism of the world beating a man into submission with an everlasting sense of love and affection. Reznik imbues every line with sincerity and incredible passion, for example the ending lyrics ”I think about you all the time, but I don’t need the same. It’s lonely where you are, come back down, and I won’t tell ‘em your name.”
The instrumental progression, with the backbone being a rather unique guitar line that serves to accentuate the emotions coming from the lyrics. Every moment in the song is built to elicit emotion, not least of which is the bridge, which contains an acoustic solo of sorts, building up a crescendo before ending on a quiet, somber note, an immaculate ending to an immaculate song.
A Boy Named Goo
is not a perfect album. There are blemishes, cracks in the glass. The Goo Goo Dolls have been cast aside as nothing more than a sappy 90s band, and in certain instances that is accurate. However, at the same time, they were more significant than that. They were deeper lyrically, more complex instrumentally. They were more complicated
. They defined themselves by their flaws, bore them like scars in their songs. Perhaps that is what makes A Boy Named Goo
infinitely more than the sum of its parts. It is in those issues that an emotional connection could be made. There are “objectively better” albums, ones that push boundaries in music, or make a person rethink their life. Sometimes though, an album crops up over the course of life that latches on, warts and all, and that album grows and changes with a person, becoming more important as the years go on. For this reviewer, A Boy Named Goo
is that album.