Review: Goo Goo Dolls – ‘Greatest Hits’

Posted: January 22nd, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

Purchase @ iTunes
Release Date: November 13th, 2007 via Warner Bros.
Goo Goo Dolls are:
Johnny Rzeznik (Vocals / Guitar)
Robby Takac (Bass)
Mike Malinin (Drums)

Overview: Everyone, ok at least most of you, remember the 90′s rock era, a time for big, memorable choruses, poppy overtones, and songs with enough cling to stay with you well into adulthood. There were plenty of bands that did the whole “one-hit wonder” thing and then fell by the wayside-Dog’s Eye View, The Verve Pipe, and Deep Blue Something just to name a few. But the Buffalo, NY trio Goo Goo Dolls never seemed to go away, pumping out radio successes one after another from the mid-90′s, well into the new millennium. So here we are in 2007, and while nostalgia rock stations are rehashing their back catalogue of Dishwalla, Vertical Horizon, and Edwin McCain, the Goo Goo Dolls are being recognized for their endless list of contributions to the music world with their ‘Greatest Hits‘ release this past November.

The Good: Greatest Hits‘ is a solid assortment of songs from the band’s past (no, not the Metal Blade Records past…), everything from the slightly gritty ‘A Boy Named Goo‘, to the first shots at mainstream allure in ‘Dizzy Up the Girl‘, and the sleek, epic appeal of their most recent album ‘Let Love In‘. Speaking of the latter record, ‘Greatest Hits‘ opens surprisingly with the title track of said album, and then goes back in time to visit ‘Dizzy up the Girl‘. The lead single of the band’s 2002 opus ‘Gutterflower‘ is up next in the form of “Here is Gone”, the stunning, make-you-drop-everything-and-listen soaring anthem, and on the flipside is “Slide”, the all-too-familiar finger-snapping, foot-tapping bounce that still seems to receive radio play like regular rotation. Goo Goo Dolls keep the time-travel carousel and the variety of ‘Greatest Hits‘ going, jetting the listener forward to “Stay With You”, the first cut off ‘Let Love In‘ filled with a touching, teary-eyed glamor, while their bare souls are stripped and exposed in the raw and self-reflective “Before It’s Too Late”, which could be heard on the Blockbuster “smash” Transformers. “Broadway”, a Goo Goo Dolls staple comes up on the rolodex, as the words to the aforementioned song are buried deep somewhere in everyone’s subconscious, and the mood changes suddenly with the brooding, U2-inspired “Feel the Silence”. The ‘Let Love In‘ trend soldiers on with “Better Days”, a dynamic, starlit tune that belongs underneath a slowly-rotating disco ball, but the band returns to their upbeat persona with the sun-kissed, roadtrip-ready “Big Machine”. “Black Balloon” is another bombshell from the band’s ‘Dizzy up the Girl‘. record, and its fusion of moody, acoustic sensibilities with enveloping orchestral embellishments provide for a rather surprising pick-hit, while “Sympathy” is one of the band’s most feel-good, throw-your-hat-to-the-wind tracks, as Rzeznik’s soothing voice and driving acoustic guitar make this song unforgettable. ‘Greatest Hits‘ draws the curtains with the 1998 cut “Iris”; spearheaded by its association with the flick City of Angels, the song propelled Goo Goo Dolls to the top of the charts for a hefty chunk of time, and arguably pushed them from the cusp of modern rock princes to one of the top dogs of the mainstream realm. ‘Greatest Hits‘ has many bright spots for the Goo Goo Dolls, but the brightest is “Name”, the only tune from ‘A Boy Named Goo‘ present, but with a little bit of zest. You see, the band re-tracked the song to clean it up a bit, and while some may think this is only to make their 1995 power-ballad more accessible, such is not the case, as Rzeznik and company effectively change deliveries, dynamics, and focus on the new version of “Name” and make it tug at you and never let go; “Name” captures everything about the band, and was a gracious gift to include with ‘Greatest Hits‘.

The Bad: If you have followed the Goo Goo Dolls for an extensive period of time as I have, you begin to, as you would with any band you follow from childhood on, tab songs from the artist that you feel deserve recognition and herald, with or without widespread exposure. Such is the case with Goo Goo Dolls and myself, and while many may not agree with me, I feel the following songs from each album belong on ‘Greatest Hits‘ in one way or another:

From ‘A Boy Named Goo‘: Long Way Down, Naked, Ain’t that Unusual
From ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’: All Eyes on Me
From ‘Gutterflower‘: Think About Me
From ‘Let Love In‘: Listen

Yes, there was a compilation earlier in the decade, ‘What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art, and Commerce‘ that captured many of the band’s older romps, but every song on the humble list above is deserving of a spot on a Goo Goo Dolls greatest hits compilation in some form, and if you are just exploring the band, those are outstanding tracks to tackle after you wade your way through the more recognizable material from the band. Oddly enough, the song “Naked” is what got me hooked on Goo Goo Dolls, after seeing the video on MTV; would that count as a single? Nevertheless, there are some key absences here and a little bit of a bias towards the band’s newest offerings, but is to be expected.

Bottomline: The Goo Goo Dolls have always been able to impress me, because with each album, they combine their radio-ready entourage with a wide range of emotion, from scathing anger, to blissful memoirs, to melancholy mourning, exposing themselves as not only musicians, but true human beings as well. ‘Greatest Hits‘ is a sturdy balance of the band’s esteemed resume, and even if you absolutely denounce every Dolls hit out there, the new version of “Name” is worth every dollar for this album. Sure, there are some blatant absences (in my opinion), and yes, Rzeznik was a judge on ‘The Next Great American Band’ (good thing they didn’t try to push a song to coincide with that show!), but the Goo Goo Dolls have never waned in their approach to writing crafty, mature, and well-implemented songs, a gift that ‘Greatest Hits‘ captures as best it can.

Rating: 8 out of 10