Disc Reviews: The Goo Goo Dolls

The Goo Goo Dolls polished modern rock sound could be appropriate for light beer or automobile commercials.

Goo Goo Dolls 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Goo Goo Dolls 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
RIVERS CUOMO Alone: The Home Recordings (Helicon) Rivers Cuomo has always been the most engaging of rock stars while fronting Weezer over the last 15 years or so, as well as one of the most gifted. Cuomo's appeal, besides writing some of the catchiest power pop this side of Cheap Trick, has been his complete willingness to be himself in public - whether it be an on and off again Harvard student, a maladjusted romantic geek, or simply a Kiss fan. That unaffected awkwardness has helped define Weezer, and not surprisingly also infuses the material on Cuomo's solo debut, Alone: The Home Recordings. It's not really a solo album, but as Cuomo writes in the insightful essays accompanying the songs, it's "a CD of my favorite demos from the years 1992 to 2007." As such, it's all over the place, but ultimately a fascinating glance into Cuomo's delicate psyche. A stark 1992 version of Gregg Alexander's "The World We Love So Much" shows Cuomo plumbing the depth of his emotions, while the power riffs and chaos of the next year's "Lemonade" display his love of three-chord pop. Cuomo's ability to write gorgeous melodies is evident on the dreamy "Longtime Sunshine," "Wanda (You're My Only Love), and "I Was Made For You." And a demo version of the band's first big hit "Buddy Holly," it's noteworthy to hear how Cuomo's initial vision was cleaned up and speeded up when the band got hold of it. A handful of songs written for an aborted rock musical called Songs from the Black Hole are more interesting in an historical perspective than a musical one. But they're immediately forgiven thanks to the strength of tracks like "Lovers in the Snow" and "Chess," two attempts at writing in certain styles, described extensively by Cuomo in the CD booklet. It may not be a discovery on par with someone like Brian Wilson providing an in depth, behind the songs analysis of his demos, but Alone does achieve that sense of getting inside the mind of a true rock original, and liking what you find. GOO GOO DOLLS Greatest Hits Volume One: The Singles (Hatav Hashmini) Listening to the Goo Goo Dolls is always a guilt-inducing experience. Their clean, polished modern rock sound could be appropriate for light beer or automobile commercials, and almost every one of their lyrics could be based on a made for TV romantic drama. Like Bon Jovi, they're a band whose songs are too easy to like, therefore they should be hated, or at least dismissed. But John Rzeznik and company's songwriting and performing craft have the knack of simply melting away the cynicism of even the most jaded critic. That's never more evident than on their first collection, Greatest Hits: The Singles, which displays that winning formula to its strongest effect. Songs like "Let Love In," "Slide" and "Name" are punchy, accessible, and contain enough college guitar jangle to satisfy both alt rock and mainstream fans. The same can be said for almost all of the 14 tracks, most notably "Stay With You" and "Broadway". The collection is light on the power ballads that have been the source of most animosity toward the band, but if you want the chance to vent, "Iris" is there in all its overwrought splendor. There's always been a place for mainstream meat and potatoes arena rock, and Goo Goo Dolls are among its most proficient practitioners. So let's play this CD with pride, and be guilty no more.