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THE GOO GOO DOLLS
Let Love In
The Goo Goo Dolls' Let Love In is an example of what happens when a decent, workmanlike band has a blockbuster mainstream hit that veers off into a pop direction - in this case 1998's dramatic, heart-tugging "Iris".
Pressure from within and without (their label and their new found young fans) to repeat the success leads to formula, and the Buffalo-based band's eighth album is full of by-the-numbers faux-tough guitar rock swathed in sticky Hallmark card sentiments.
Frontman Johnny Rzeznik seems to be in an eternal struggle between his scruffy rocker exterior and his not-so-hidden Eric Carmen; in recent years, the schmaltz has gained the upper hand. He can't seem to get away from the melodramatic, but simplistic boy and girl lyrics and bombastic arrangements that make everything sound like they, too, are part of the soundtrack to City of Angels.
The perfectly likeable hit "Stay With You" could have been written and performed by any number of anonymous bands, with Rzeznik's boyish earnestness being the only attribute that stands out amid the assembly line modern rock guitars and drums. Same goes for the title cut, and a slew of other sound-alike numbers.
Halfway through, the band finally unleashes its inner Replacements for the unaffected power pop of "Listen" and "Strange Love," both interestingly enough written and sung by bass player Robby Takac.
The buzz is short-lived, however, doused by Rzeznik's tendency for inoffensive AM fare. If covering 70s wimp anthem "Give a Little Bit" by Supertramp on 2004's Live in Buffalo wasn't enough, the band offers a spirited studio version here full of chiming guitars that's impossible not to hum along to.
Goo Goo Dolls' capabilities are beyond argument, and Let Love In could end up being their biggest seller yet. But their professionalism has been achieved at the expense of their spark of creativity.
THE SECRET MACHINES
Ten Silver Drops
An American indie rock trio that likes atmospheric tunes and a definite '80s British Echo and the Bunnymen groove, The Secret Machines have a mixed bag offer on their second full length disc Ten Silver Drops.
Following a mopey, yet mesmerizing opener, "Alone, Jealous and Stoned," the band revs up for a slice of New Order synth dance pop in "All At Once (It's Not Important)," and a sleek rocking "Lightning Blue Eyes".
The middle of the disc flounders however, with a plodding 10-minute "Daddy's in the Doldrum", and the silly "I Hate Pretending." It makes it pretty impossible to come back from those numbing depths, and despite some rousing efforts like "Faded Lines," the momentum never returns.
Like fellow pop experimentalists Mercury Rev, they enlist the help of The Band's Garth Hudson on the dreamy late-period REM-sounding "I Want to Know if It's Still Possible."
All is almost forgiven with the heartfelt closing anthem "1,000 Seconds," where the band strips its pretensions away to produce a song that rightfully stands alongside the greats they try to emulate.
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