Goo Goo Dolls: Something for the Rest of Us

RIYL: Bryan Adams, The Plimsouls, Richard Marx

61luGSOu-WL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1] The Goo Goo Dolls have, at this point, been an adult contemporary recording act longer than they were Buffalo’s answer to the Replacements, so the time has probably come to stop using each new album as an excuse to whine about how much cooler they used to be, and lament what might have been if only Superstar Car Wash had been a hit. At this point, everybody knows exactly what they’re going to get from a Goos record, and if you’re looking to the fellows who brought you “Iris” for hungover blue-collar rock, well…that’s your problem, not theirs.

What we have with Something for the Rest of Us, then, is what sounds like – please, Lord, let it be – the final step in the Goos’ decade-long sanding down of their old sound. They’ve been inching this direction since they released Dizzy Up the Girl in 1998; 2002’s Gutterflower and 2006’s Let Love In were each slightly slicker, duller versions of what came before them, and Something out-slicks and out-snoozes them all. According to John Rzeznik, the more tuneful Goo with the Bon Jovi pout, the songs on this album are supposed to address the trying times we’re living in, but if there’s any topicality here, it’s so buried in snuggly layers of radio-ready gloss that it hardly matters.

When it comes to the Goo Goo Dolls, all that matters anymore is the ratio of sweeping Rzeznik power ballads (ten) to slightly punkier, slightly snottier Robby Takac rockers (two), and how soothing/vaguely dramatic it’ll sound in your car while you’re driving home from a long day of answering phones or filling out spreadsheets (very). There isn’t a line, chord, or cymbal crash that will change your life, or hit you anywhere but the soft, nougaty part of your cerebral cortex where you hide your secret affection for Lifehouse and Three Doors Down. It’s a very boring album, in other words, but who needs excitement? Excitement is messy, and it doesn’t have Rzeznik’s artfully tousled hair. (Warner Bros. 2010)

Goo Goo Dolls MySpace page


Lifehouse: Smoke & Mirrors

RIYL: Goo Goo Dolls, The Fray, Matchbox Twenty

When Lifehouse released their edgy debut No Name Face in 2000, their music was leaning more toward alternative and cool – because of the songs and the way they recorded them, but also because of how radio, to some degree, still drove record sales. But as bands like Lifehouse, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind keep aging, their music tends to organically soften. And as it does, they start to mesh on radio with artists such as, say, Edwin McCain or Huey Lewis. And while we all do age, there is something inherently disappointing in watching a band like Lifehouse start to listen too much to producers and radio programmers instead of making the cool music that they used to. Still, these guys can write hit songs in their sleep, and on Smoke & Mirrors, their fifth studio effort, Lifehouse has delivered yet another batch of ear candy that will have little girls swooning. For the rest of us, it’s a nice album, but nothing we haven’t heard before, from Lifehouse or any other bands in their alt/pop genre.

Songs like the upbeat “All In” and “Had Enough” are formulaic, but there are also some nice surprises. The first one is “Nerve Damage,” which is an edgy rocker that even has a bluesy guitar solo that is (gasp) almost 30 seconds long. Then there’s the best track of all, “From Where You Are,” a stunning acoustic ballad that shows singer Jason Wade hasn’t lost a single strand of vocal cord over the past decade. Someday Lifehouse may go back to having creative control. But even so, their music doesn’t exactly suck, and you can’t blame them for chasing a big paycheck. (Geffen 2010)

Lifehouse MySpace page


Mutemath: Armistice

RIYL: Power Station, Wire Train, Gomez

When the members of New Orleans-based rock band Mutemath were beating their heads against the wall with the new material they had written as the follow-up to their stellar 2006 debut, the band almost broke up. The songs just were missing something, and they all knew it. Instead of channeling their energy into a bitter divorce, though, Mutemath enlisted the help of producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, The Hives, Elvis Costello), who told them to start over again and write some new stuff. They did, but they did so with an angry passion they lacked before the near-breakup, and the result is a powerful set of new tunes called Armistice. Singer Paul Meany may be one of the best rock vocalists you know nothing about, but that should hopefully change with this groundbreaking album. Right from the start with “The Nerve,” Meany and his band mates symbolically pay tribute to their own rebirth, with the gang vocal chorus shouting, “Set it on fire!” The layers of guitars and strings, slapping bass and tasty drums all mesh well with Meany’s vocals in a way few bands manage to these days. But just like the band’s debut, Armistice has twists and turns and variations in style and texture – especially on the electro-funk of “Backfire” or the title track to the alt-pop beauty of “Pins and Needles” or “Goodbye” to the Goo Goo Dolls-ish “Lost Year.” Whether or not the band does feel like it lost a year, they sure did gain back their self-respect and have delivered one of the best rock records of the year. (Warner Brothers 2009)

Mutemath MySpace page


Our Lady Peace: Burn Burn

Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace has been around for a while – seven studio albums now, to be exact, and their latest, Burn Burn, hit streets last month. And while the members of OLP claim to feel great about having more creative control at this point in their career, they have not used that control to do anything earth-shattering here. In fact, the band has regressed a bit, and has begun to gravitate toward the adult contemporary end of the radio dial. Bands like Creed, Nickelback, and the Goo Goo Dolls have lived in radio suburbia for years, and now OLP has entered the neighborhood, as this batch of songs on Burn Burn are at times catchy, but mostly dull and lifeless. Many bands like this that used to be cool and alternative have softened greatly, having succumbed to years of record execs telling them to write “hits.” The first single off of Burn Burn, “All You Did Was Save My Life,” is a prime example, a formulaic track that you will tire of before the song has even played through. “Dreamland” and “The End Is Where We Began” also lean toward sugary pop, though it’s worth pointing out that singer Raine Maida can still bring it. One of the bright spots here is “Never Get Over You,” which may remind you of the Spiritual Machines days, but mostly, as on “Signs of Life,” there just aren’t many on this album. (LABEL: Warner Music Group)

Our Lady Peace MySpace Page


Social Code: He Said, She Said

There’s something that’s different from most power pop and Warped Tour fare when it comes to Canadian rock band Social Code. On the band’s debut US EP, He Said, She Said, Social Code sets itself apart from the pack a bit with a lot of guitar-driven energy and with Travis Nesbitt’s raspy vocal (think Hawthorne Heights and Fall Out Boy having a child). The title track is the kind of stuff that will give record labels and radio programmers a collective wet dream. But Social Code is just paying the bills with that and with the catchy but slightly grating “Beautiful.” That’s because the best tracks here are “Perfect Grave” and “The Shortest Line.” The former has a dark, melody-driven approach ala the Goo Goo Dolls, and could launch this band into superstardom if the right people hear it. Love it or hate it, this genre is still here to stay for a while, and Social Code is worth keeping your eyes and ears on. (LABEL: Fifth Season Music)

Social Code MySpace Page


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