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BY CHRIS TALNOTT
ASST. ARTS EDITOR

Few bands have come as far as the Goo Goo Dolls have in the past five years.

The Buffalo-based trio, which plays at the Downunder Saturday, has changed their sound and their lifestyle completely. According to George (the Goo Goo Dolls don't use their last names), the band's drummer, that change has given them a whole new look at life.

"I think every day I live I'm starting to enjoy it more." George said in a phone interview from New York City where the band was taking a break between shows. "It gets easier. I mean we've come from when we started and all the craziness, playing hardcore and living on nothing with life pretty much sucking all the time."

But the Dolls, who started out as a hardcore band and have since toned down their sound, have always kept a positive attitude and things are beginning to go their way.

"We've starting to get a little more focused," George said "We've all calmed down on our drinking. We were drunken messes for a while."

If you listened to the Goo Goo Dolls latest album Hold Me Up, you'd never guess that they started out as a hardcore band. The songs are definitely poppy. There are touches of hardcore/metal interspersed in the album, but it mostly comes from the tempo and the play of George on drums and Robby on bass.

George mostly plays a straight-forward, driving rhythm. No fancy rolls or pretentious tom-work — just solid, well thought out music. Robby's bass playing is a little different also. He doesn't play notes so much as roll them off the fretboard. Guitarist George isn't afraid to open up and play hard and fast, but he seems more interested in picking notes and stringing together solid chords now.

The difference is extremely noticeable when you play their second album, Jed, back-to-back with Hold Me Up. Jed is really hard-edged, more metal than anything else. It almost has a "Hell-bent on personal destruction" sound. The marked contrast between the albums is one good example of how far the Goos have come in just two years.

"I think right from the start we wanted to be a pop band, but I think we were really poor players when we started," said George, who is celebrating his 26th birthday this week. "We had a record contract that we almost didn't deserve. I mean we played hardcore shows because that's where we could get away with it. We were trying to write pop songs, but because of lack of ability or whatever, they ended up coming out just madness."

Now the band has really learned how to play their instruments. Because of their hardcore experience, they put spins on old themes, adding dimensions to their work that most bands would never have thought of.

Critics definitely noticed the change in the Goos. Hold Me Up got several solid reviews and the band received wide-acclaim for their latest "pop" album. George said that as well as making their sound more poppier, they explored new territory in their songwriting.

"It's a relationship album. Almost every song has to do with a relationship," George said. "I think we were all touring so much and we all had our own problems with our personal relationships and it just came out. It's a very honest, personal and direct album."

Not only did the Goo Goo Dolls receive wide acceptance from the critics and the public, but they caught the eye of a well-known band that used to be on a course headed for destruction as well — The Replacements.

The Goo Goo Dolls toured with The Replacements, opening for them before starting their own tour which brings them to Tallahassee.

"It was a blast — it was great. The Replacements are one of my favorite bands." George said. "It was kind of exciting to do shows with them,
just to talk to them and hang out."

But George is relieved that the hand has moved on to their own gig now.

"It's kind of weird doing an opening gig, the drummer said. "In 40 minutes you're on, you're off. You just get warmed up and okay, it's time to go. I'm sort of looking forward to going back to clubs. You can play what ever you want to and there's no time limit."

The Goo Goo Dolls will play with a new local band. Steamin' Cup of Joe, Saturday night at the Downunder. The show begins at 9:30 and is free to students with a validated ID and just $3 to the general public.
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