Goo Goo Dolls lead singer John Rzeznik has often alluded to a last album before a much-needed retirement in Italy where he would spend his days as a family man and chef, but after listening to “Let Love In,” the band’s tenth official album and eighth studio release, fans, collectively known as “Goobers,” can only hope that there is much more in store for this underrated rock ‘n’ roller than mouth-watering cuisine and dirty diapers.
“Let Love In” takes a back-to-basics approach, confirming the already known fact that Rzeznik and crew still have a surplus of potential new directions up their sleeves – not only forcing me to hit “repeat all” on my stereo but leaving me craving at least a few more Goo years.
The album as a whole presents a softer, intensely vulnerable Rzeznik, offering up nine new songs and two previously released tracks – a cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit” and the Christmas-spirit, hope-tinged “Better Days,” an anthem for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The Goos seemingly delved into the depths of their honest cores to create songs consumed with love – love as an obsession and gift, love as an unrecognized or unappreciated entity and love as a desperate and unquenchable need.
Rzeznik has never had trouble expressing his innermost self through song, emptying his heavy heart and overworked mind onto the pages of his notebook time and again, and his writing, always wonderfully simplistic, is unchanged. But not in 20 years has a Goos’ album been such an upfront, mellow representation of anguish and newfound joys, wrapped in a package of raw vocals and Rzeznik’s uniquely complicated guitar tunings.
The Goos have seemingly embraced the “sell-out” label they were branded with following the success of “Name,” a radio gem from1995’s “A Boy Named Goo,” leaving themselves bare to critique, as this album presents less of a mixture of rough, rock-oriented tunes and soft, acoustic-based or string accompanied efforts than ever before.
Hopeful, strangely peaceful songs symbolic of better days replace hurtful, guitar and production-oriented tunes, such as “Dizzy,” “What a Scene,” “Hate This Place” and “Amigone,” of past releases.
From beginning to end, Rzeznik bravely expresses past and present failures and successes in his sexy, slightly aged and increasingly throatier voice intent on pondering the truth of forever-sought-after love. Combined with bassist Robby Takac’s raspy, heavy metal-inspired vocals that perpetually recall the band’s original, pre-mainstream punk roots, “Let Love In” is both a representation of growth and a true-blue continuation of music named Goo.
Rzeznik and Takac create a solid foundation of meaningful lyrics and consistently strong melodies without hiding behind fancy instrumentation, proving critics who claim the band now lacks the “hunger” associated with starving artists utterly wrong.
Noticeably absent this time around, however, is the share of Takac songs.
It is a little known fact that Takac, the original Goos’ front man, later took his place in the shadows, gratefully relinquishing the spotlight to Rzeznik as time progressed. He has typically been allotted an average of four songs per album, but is only present as a vocalist on two this time around – “Listen,” seemingly a plea for or question of devotion, and “Strange Love,” a tribute to his wife Miyoko. Yet Takac still shines, gloriously returning longtime fans like myself to such classic innovations as “Outta the Red,” “Know My Name” and “Burnin’ Up.”
Lyrical masterpieces charged with restless yearning may also touch even the most hardened or jaded spirits, as each Rzeznik and/or Takac penned song is riddled with arresting clarity and sincerity.
The first single, “Stay With You” contains the memorable chorus: “If you run with me/I’ll stay with you/The walls will fall before we do,” and ensuing songs such as “Without You Here,” “Feel the Silence,” “Can’t Let it Go” and “We’ll Be Here (When You’re Gone)” ingeniously examine the monumental decision to let love in. Lyrics such as “you remain a promise unfulfilled until today,” “let love become the mirror,” “I’m drownin’ but I never felt so free,” and “a passion junkie’s fix is never satisfied” represent Rzeznik and Takac at their absolute best.
Admittedly a Goos’ super fan – a googirl, if you will – I have always thought that I was the band’s best and worst critic. With that in mind, I found that the album pulled at my heartstrings a little more powerfully with each listen, becoming one of my favorites – even ranking right up there with 1994’s “Superstar Carwash.” The Goos have once again proved that they belong in a category of their own, perhaps the only reason why they remain a promise unfulfilled in the musical world until today.
Kady Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.