In 2013 the Goo Goo Dolls are still putting out new music, keeping in line with their mid-ninety breakthrough hits “Name” and “Iris,” which launched them into a career as pop-rock ballad aficionados. Johnny Rzeznik, and crew, whether you have been paying attention or not, have been releasing material for over 25 years. Goo Goo Dolls more recent albums, Let Love In and Something For the Rest of Us, proved to maintain their pop-rock sound hold on top 40’s pop charts with a more slightly somber tone in the later. Magnetic, their tenth studio album, was released on June 11, 2013 by Warner Brothers. Goo Goo Dolls worked with producers John Shanks Greg Wells and Gregg Wattenberg in LA and NYC to record the album in October and November of 2012.
“Rebel Beat” opens the album, sounding well produced and beat orientated. The song sounds like evidence that Goo Goo Dolls are attempting to stay with the times. The chorus features layered, chanting harmony, similar to many of today’s indie pop hits such as “Little Talks” or “Tongue Tied.” This first single off the album features good song structure and memorable melodies. “When the World Breaks Your Heart” settles in next with compliments of strings and a rolling drum beat. Rzeznik delivers heart-felt lines such as “the stars will burn forever” and “I’ll be there, you’re not alone.” The concept is beautiful, with the execution only barely surpasses boring. We have a sweet love song lacking the impact of past hits like “Iris” and “Slide.” Next, “Slow it Down” almost follows suit, but for an explosive chorus. Expert production saves the day when the songs don’t quite deliver. “Caught in the Storm” seems to have the same format as “Slow it Down” and “Rebel Beat,” a sleeper verse with an explosive chorus, the nineties formula.
The next single on the disk is “Come to Me,” which has a soft acoustic feel. This song would not be a single for any other group, it sounds like a weak B side from the Goo Goo Dolls heyday. Rzeznik sings over a sea of well-produced backing vocal harmonies “this is where we start again,” likely commenting on band’s new material. Oddly enough, Rzeznik and crew have not pushed the limits of their music since 1995, this album may actually feature the biggest stretch considering the production and almost digital pop sound. There is a lack of distorted guitars and punkish material, which defined the group before their breakthrough and maintained with them in small doses as their career progressed. Goo Goo Dolls fans have kept them alive and the band has seemingly matured into an edgeless pop group. They are staying the course.
The next track “BulletProofAngel” seems to solidify this theory, with a beat that is practically straight out of the slow pop song toolbox. The production on this track keeps things interesting and fun. The soundscape of strings and effects entrances and entertains. Rzeznik sings “aren’t you tired of working hard while other people’s dreams are coming true” on “Last Hot Night,” a wonderfully stated representation of the zeitgeist of our ginormous U.S. middle class. In his characteristic rock voice, Johnny sounds like a viable source of truth, and nails it on this track, one of the strongest on Magnetic.
Robby Takac, the group’s bassist and original singer, lends his vocals on “Bringing in the Light” and “Happiest of Days.” This is probably a fan pleasing move, though when Rzeznik is undeniably the essence the Goo Goo Dolls sound, these vocals sound slightly out of place. Closing track “Keep the Car Running” is a stronger track and seems to perfect their new favorite type of chorus, filled with hollering, layers of harmony and epic size.
Goo Goo Dolls found their sound in 1995 and have not strayed much since. On Magnetic, the group sounds solid as ever, like a pop machine. Some solid tracks and expert production make this album honorable, though there are signs this band has creating music solely for sustainability.