There are not many bands gigging and releasing albums today who started out together in the mid-’80s. Of those that are, a good proportion have seen break-ups to “pursue solo projects” until the financial lure of a reunion gig miraculously overcomes the antipathy between band members. Not so the Goo Goo Dolls, who this year celebrate their 20 years together with their eighth album and an international tour.
The Goo Goo Dolls have not stood still in this time, however. From their early punk-influenced work (did someone say glam rock? Oh well, it was the ’80s…) they have progressed – or should that read mellowed – to purveyors of radio-friendly rock and the “power ballad”.
Let Love In starts well, with the punchy guitars and drums of Stay With You. Although it pulls back when John Rzeznik’s vocals start, it opens up again into an expansive, made-for-stadium, anthemic chorus. Soaring lyrics talk of staying together, running together, while the drums whip up the energy levels.
It then drifts into ballad territory, with the title track, Feel The Silence and Better Days all providing Rzeznik with the opportunity to exercise those trademark gravel-edged yet silken vocal chords. Better Days stands out in this trio, not least because of the strings (although given the lack of credits in the album notes for any cellists, it sadly appears that these could be just keyboard effects).
Things get more interesting when bassist Robby Takac co-writes with Rzeznik, on Listen and Strange Love. The former has got some great guitars and drums, while the latter is notable for lyrics such as: “A passion junkie’s dog ain’t got no collar on.” Eh? Strange is definitely the word.
Both tracks, it is fair and perhaps inevitable to say, are seriously impaired by Takac taking over the singing. Unfortunately his voice is like that of a villain in a teen horror movie and he should definitely stick to his day job.
Mid-album, we are treated to a cover version – Supertramp‘s Give A Little Bit. It is an unusual choice but an enjoyable interpretation with the guys making the song their own, even if ultimately it shows that nowadays the Goo Goo Dolls are more pop than rock. The guitar-driven pop theme continues in Can’t Let It Go which, despite its intro bearing an uncanny rhythmic and musical resemblance to that of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons‘ Oh What A Night, is one of the reasons to listen to this album.
Another reason to listen is Rzeznik’s undoubted abilities as a lyricist. Better Days’ mournful yet upbeat “tonight’s the night the world begins again” would seem to be one of the reasons CNN took to using the track while covering the relief effort following Hurricane Katrina. Also, anyone who has been in a relationship will recognise the sentiment behind Can’t Let It Go’s: “I know you feel so beautifully wronged…”
All in all, Let Love In is not a bad album. It would enjoyably help to while away an hour’s driving, but those seeking a little more punch will have to look elsewhere.