A Boy Named Goo

Goo Goo Dolls

Metal Blade, 1995

http://www.googoodolls.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/02/2013

The ’90s alt-rock explosion is full of stories like this: band initially starts out playing hard-edge post grunge, then slightly modifies its sound and finds radio airplay and mainstream acceptance. In the wake of grunge, radio stations were keen to find the next big band, and soon the airwaves were littered with bands like Bush, Matchbox 20, Everclear, and Candlebox.

Goo Goo Dolls fits into this same pattern, but time has been kind to A Boy Named Goo, and not just because of the hit “Name.” Although that acoustic ballad put the band on the map, the bulk of the disc is winning, catchy power-pop/rock, which sounds like little else that was being played in 1995.

That may be hard to believe, but it’s true. The Goos don’t rely on minor power chords and bleak lyrics, nor do they have much in the way of punk à la Green Day. It’s more along the lines of Cheap Trick and the garage pop bands of the ‘80s (the Replacements and the dBs, to name a couple), but with a bit of ‘90s attitude. For those who only know the band from their many late ‘90s ballads, this one will come as a bit of a pleasant surprise. A Boy Named Goo combines both sides of the band into a successful platter that is, by far, their best effort.

“Long Way Down” is the first and best song here, all powerful riffs and a good guitar solo set to an insistent beat and featuring Johnny Rzeznik’s stellar vocal work, especially in the chorus. This album is where Rzeznik came into his own as a vocalist; on prior albums, Robby Takac handled most of the vocals, but here he and Rzeznik split the duties. Takac’s higher register is suited to the more upbeat songs like “Burnin’ Up,” while Rzeznik sounds better on the tough yet vulnerable “Naked.”

Songs like “Ain’t That Unusual” and “Only One” continue the energy, while the closing cover of “Slave Girl” is proof that the Dolls can do pop punk as well as anybody. “Name” remains a strong ballad and a worthy choice to vault the band into commercial success; it never sounds pandering and fits in the fabric of the album, though it is one of the few non-electric songs here. That may come as a surprise to those who thought Dizzy Up The Girl (which followed this release) accurately represented the band’s sound, because the slow songs on that one (“Iris,” “Black Balloon,” etc.) were simply rewrites of “Name.”

Because of what followed, A Boy Named Goo has become a little bit forgotten other than its one hit, and this is a shame. This release is not only the band’s best record, but it’s also one of the highlights of the mid ‘90s post-grunge movement.

Rating: B

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