The Goo Goo Dolls’ lead singer and songwriter Johnny Rzeznik has always been a hopeless romantic with a bit of a Byronic twist.
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On the band’s latest set, “Magnetic,” out Tuesday (11), he’s as hopeful as he’s ever been. Less guitar-driven and noticeably peppier than some of the group’s past efforts, “Magnetic” is still instantly recognizably the work of the same folks who brought you “Iris,” “Black Balloon,” “Slide” and countless other melodic smashes over the past 20 years. While the hits may have slowed from the trio’s mid-‘90s heyday, the Goo Goo Dolls still hold the record for the most top 10 songs in the history of Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart of all acts and “Rebel Beat,” the anthemic first single from “Magnetic,” will likely extend the streak.
Instead of writing alone as he usually does, Rzeznik paired with some other hitmaking writers/producers, including Gregg Wattenberg and John Shanks, for the album’s 11 originals (there are also live versions of past hits, “Home” and “Black Balloon” tacked on as bonus cuts.
The switch has done the band good: the songs are punchier and more rhythmic than those on the fairly downbeat 2010 “Something For The Rest Of Us.” Throughout, lyrically, Rzeznik focuses on being in the now, whether it’s the reminder to not “sleep through my own life” on the driving “Caught In The Storm,” or gently chiding someone to let him love them on “Slow It Down” as he sings, “Just shut your mouth and know that you are everything to me.”
“Come to Me” is a gorgeous layered love song about growing old with someone, perhaps to Rzeznik’s fiancee who he is marrying this summer.
The giddiness isn’t unqualified. On “Happiest Of Days,” one of two songs sung by bassist Robby Takac, who started the band with Rzeznik in 1986, he watches as a friend struggles. However, by and large, if the silver lining isn’t always obvious (Rzeznik confides “there are times I feel no matter what I do is wrong” on “Keep The Car Running” and a feeling of loneliness pervades some tracks), this is still a far sunnier Goo Goo Dolls than we’ve seen lately.
If the Goos have never been your thing before, there’s little here that will sway you to give them a listen now, but if you’re a fan of the Goo Goo Dolls’ layered pop rock, you’ll certainly feel the pull of “Magnetic.”