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From: Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)

Date: April 12, 2002

Byline: Phillip Zonkel Music Writer

MANY OF the Goo Goo Dolls' songs, hits and otherwise, are influenced by either personal or observational experiences with broken relationships, guilt and failure to communicate. For frontman-lyricist-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

"I'm a musician, so of course I'm neurotic and irrational more than 50 percent of the time,'' says the 36-year-old.

Once again, Rzeznik takes those feelings and channels them into songs, this time for tracks on the Goo Goo Dolls' recently released CD, "Gutterflower.'' Taking to heart that misery loves company, bassist- vocalist Robby Takac, 37, adds some lyric loneliness to the disc.

Rzeznik's scruffy, pretty-boy looks and sensitive lyrics for such power-ballad smashes as "Name'' and "Iris'' have placed him among the ranks of rock pinups. The tracks on "Gutterflower'' won't diminish his reputation for poignant penmanship.

Phoning from backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,'' where the trio - Rzeznik, Takac and drummer Mike Malinin, 34 - wait to play, Rzeznik, puffing on cigarettes in the band's dressing room, says most of "Gutterflower's'' tracks were fertilized by self-reflection.

"The hardest thing to relate to is yourself. It's the most frightening thing to make an honest statement about yourself and put it out for the world to scrutinize,'' says Rzeznik, citing the "Gutterflower'' track "Sympathy'' as an example. "That's a dangerous place, but I have faith in myself and my music. If I get hammered, I don't care. I'll get up and walk away.''

The only walking the group will do on Saturday is on and off the stage. At around 5:15 p.m., the trio headlines the Pioneer Rock-N-Roar Concert taking place outside the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. The show is free to all Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Saturday ticket holders.

For all the expectations put on this album, "Gutterflower'' has received overwhelmingly positive praise from critics.

"I don't hear a song like 'Iris' on this album. I hear songs that are as good as 'Iris,' that's an important distinction,'' says Larry Flick, senior talent editor at Billboard. "It's not trying or straining to be something other than what it is, which is the most important part.''

"I like the fact that they didn't try to go with a formula all the way,'' says Chris Patyk, assistant program director and music director at Star 98.7 FM (KYSR). "The song 'Sympathy' redefines them a little bit. It's basically Johnny and a mandolin. It's sort of a revelation for him as a songwriter, not depending on a big anthemic chorus or anything like that.''

But that musical change of pace doesn't mean the 17-year-old, Buffalo, N.Y.-bred trio has abandoned its ways. Patyk says it's still rock 'n' roll and that's the way the Goo Goo Dolls like it.

"They're not some pinup, sugary, throwaway band. They're a rock band,'' Patyk says. "This is the album that solidifies that piece that hasn't been in their career.''

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll describes the Goo Goo Dolls as "a garage band with a strong taste for melodic thrash ... that evolved over a decade into polished purveyors of mall-friendly, power balladry.''

But before balladeer Rzeznik took up the mike, Takac initially was the group's lead singer.

"I never thought about singing,'' Rzeznik says. "I was in the studio drunk one night and said, 'I want to sing this one.' Then I did. It was pretty good, and so I just started singing.

"I felt a little guilty about it at first because Robby was the singer,'' he continues. "But then I started singing more and more and more. He's cool with it. (Now) there's no reason to feel guilty.''

Following four releases and lackluster sales, the Goo Goo Dolls smashed into the mainstream with the acoustic ballad "Name'' from the group's 1995 3-million-copy-selling CD, "A Boy Named Goo.'' The crew's follow-up release, 1998's 3.5-million-copy-selling "Dizzy Up the Girl,'' which spawned the hits "Iris,'' "Slide'' and "Black Balloon,'' cemented the guys' position as princes of power pop.

"This is a band that used to pretend to be a punky type group,'' Flick says. "They've lost the pose of trying to be something that they're not. They're a better power-pop band than they are a punky-type band.

"Somewhere along the lines, they've become very clear on who they are as a band,'' Flick says. "That's important to have a realistic vision of who you are and what your intentions are. This is a band that wants to make popular records."
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