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By CARL CORTEZ, Contributing Editor

I’ve been a fan of the Goo Goo Dolls back when they were a punk band in the 1980's screaming their angst riddled three-chord wonders for Metal Blade records and when Robby Takac was the frontperson for the band, not balladeer John Rzeznik.

In fact, 1990’s HOLD ME UP is hands down one of my all-time favorite albums. Grungy, poppy and super-fast, it’s the type of aggressive rock-pop that Green Day came to perfect in the 1990s.

But the Goos went into a completely different direction. Rzeznik slowly became the frontman (he had the looks and the softer vocal chops) and their music became even more pop and mainstream. They never quite lost their knack for hooks and melodies and with 1998’s DIZZY UP THE GIRL, they captured the ears of the entire world.

For long-time fans, it’s been a bit of a hard pill to swallow. While I love the group, even in their current musical incarnation, it’s been frustrating to hear the group strive for the perfect mainstream sound and not give in and just rock out a little bit more now and again.

Certainly their latest SOMETHING FOR THE REST OF US is a definite improvement over 2006’s LET LOVE IN. While that was an okay set, there were too many mid-tempo tracks, so much of the album sounded too much alike and it didn’t advance their sound much.

The terrible cover art notwithstanding, SOMETHING FOR THE REST OF US has a sharper mix of songs, and the group is reaching for different sonic palettes throughout. There is an attempt at U2 stadium-esque rock with “Sweetest Lie” (a great rocker) while “As I Am” that has a killer guitar solo that the Edge would be proud of.

The songs are still of the angst riddled set. “Still Your Song” has Rzeznik singing about a girl he used to know, and feeling bad how he treated her, so he wrote her a song to tell her how he felt.

“Something For The Rest Of Us” is classic ballad-lite Goo, especially with the title nowhere to be found in the song itself. It has a great hook and chorus: “Oh I need you there/when the nightmares and dreams come true.”

I also like “Hey Ya” (no, this isn’t the Outkast song). Super produced by super producer Butch Vig, it’s really a different sound for the group. It’s still in that mid-tempo range, but it’s damn good as is the other exemplary balled “Notbroken.”

I have to admit, I haven’t been loving the lead-off single “Home.” Good, not great,the track comes off as a LET LOVE IN leftover and not in line with the progressive nature of the rest of this new disc.

Rzeznik is the primary singer-songwriter on SOMETHING FOR THE REST OF US, but Takac, as usual, gets two tracks to himself (co-penned with Rzeznik). If you love the Goos, you don’t mind the vocal shift, because Takac’s presence is part of their sound. And both tracks “Now I Hear” and “Say You’re Free” are solid and definitely bring that rockin’ edge back to the group.

The album closes with the affecting “Soldier” – yet another showcase of Rzeznik’s continued songwriting growth. “I know things changes/Your world has slipped away/I Know Things Change/You’re living like a solider/caught in the fray/don’t lost your faith/it’s not so cold/it’s not too late.”

One of the other great things about the Goos is that they’ve never been afraid to do cover songs. On JED they covered the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner” (sung by Lance Diamond) and on HOLD ME UP they did Prince's “I’ll Never Take the Place of Your Man” (also sung by Diamond) and the Plimsouls' “A Million Miles Away.” In fact, one of their biggest hits in the 2000’s was their cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit.”

Now, on the deluxe edition, available only on Amazon and iTunes, both Rzeznik and Takac offer up a cover song apiece. Takac tackles Pete Townsend’s “Rough Boys” and it sounds like mid-‘90s Goo all the way. Meanwhile, Rzeznik chose the obscure track “Postcards from Paradise” from the great ‘80s band Flesh for Lulu. Paul Westerberg previously did a sloppy (and effective cover version) on his STEREO album, but the Goos really hit this one out of the park.

“Postcards” is exactly the type of song I’m talking about when I say I want to hear the group rock out a little more. While they retain the original harmonica lead-in from the song, but then do their own polished synth line. If you didn’t know this was a Flesh for Lulu song, you would think it was penned by the Goo Goo Dolls. This has always been one of my favorite Lulu songs and I hope the Goos consider releasing this as a single at some point because it’s so freakin’ cool.

While I would never have pegged Goo Goo Dolls to go beyond their own little alternative music niche, I’ve also been pleased they’ve found such mainstream success – especially with the name of the group being so unfortunate and yet, so perfect.

I will always hold HOLD ME UP as the quintessential Goo Goo Dolls album, but some 25 years in, their music still holds up as well – an example of how great pop music can still be polished and refined and not feel shameless and inauthentic.
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