Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not really magnetic

album review

Goo Goo Dolls' new album plays it safe and suffers

Band: Goo Goo Dolls
Album: Magnetic

If the first thing that comes to your mind when the Goo Goo Dolls are mentioned is their 1998 single 'Iris', then you're certainly not alone. And if you haven't paid much attention to the band since the late '90s or early '00s, then you're not to blame. The New York based trio has been making music for nearly 27 years, and while they have steadily released albums over the last decade, their recent output has lacked both the charm and the memorability of their most popular hits. The band has gradually lost its edge to become more mainstream while also becoming more mundane in the process, and that is also the fate that befalls their tenth album, Magnetic.

A set of mid tempo, radio friendly rock anthems set to bland instrumentation that dole out cheesy lyrics, Magnetic does not seem like the work of the same group that made their eponymous debut record Goo Goo Dolls in 1987. Closer in sound to their more recent albums, albeit sunnier and more upbeat than some of their last few releases, Magnetic lacks the very magnetism that its title promises.

The 11 tracks that make up the record are quite uniformly inoffensive and predictable. The bubbly, up tempo first single 'Rebel Beat' and the electronic tinged 'More of You' are all the variation the set offers, although these two songs are not indicative of the rest of the material. There is plenty of melodic pop rock here - everything from the generally pleasant 'Slow It Down' to the sweet 'Come to Me' is all nice and radio friendly - but it's all pretty standard and straightforward. Bassist Robby Takac's raspy vocals on 'Bringing on the Light' and 'Happiest of Days' do help to cut down the monotony, although whether you find his contributions enjoyable or grating will depend entirely on your preference.

Overall it feels like the organic rawness, angst, and edge have worn off and what remains is bland and commonplace. The only thing that reminds us that this is the Goo Goo Dolls and distinguishes it from other similar bands is John Rzeznik and Robby Takac's voices. The material itself lacks distinctiveness and is at times so tired that it could fit in Train, OneRepublic, or even Taylor Swift's catalogue. And when you're writing something that would make sense in any average mid tempo pop rock and adult contemporary artists' discography, then it's time to reassess your position and try to reinvigorate your sound. The band's decision to work with different songwriters as well as a host of producers (including Rob Cavallo, Greg Wells, and John Shanks) might also have something to do with the diluted character this album displays.

Of course the songs on offer here aren't necessarily bad, nor do they suggest musical incompetence. What they do, however, exhibit is a lack of creativity and over reliance on a tried and tested formula. If there had been no 'Iris' or 'Name' or 'Broadway' or 'Black Balloon' or 'Sympathy', then maybe this record might not have seemed so mundane. In light of the better songs from their heyday, Magnetic feels thematically, lyrically, and musically unexceptional, and begs for variation and more complexity. Sticking to the same template makes the material unexciting and middle of the road. And while the Goo Goo Dolls may be content with generic pop rock mediocrity, their listeners deserve more than this.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 21st July, 2013

No comments: