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The Buzz

IT’S AN EIGHT O’CLOCK WORLD: If you weren’t out early this week, you lost, buddy. Two of the best sets I have seen in a long time were inauspicious half-hour gatherings attended by those-in-the-know, who soaked up some great sounds while their less-hip brethren sipped on cappuccino and discussed the theory of convolution at trendy hellholes throughout Burbank. Little did the laggards know that the Goo-Goo Dolls and Toad the Wet Sprocket were laying the groundwork for the ’90s across town.

The Goo-Goo’s show at the Whisky (which also included Mary My Hope, the megabuck signing I Love You, and the excellent but still virtually unknown Buck Pets) was a definite eye-opener for a lot of people, myself included. They’ve got all the good elements of thrash — power, passion, and speed — but they also have got some of the best pop hooks around. This duality leaves something for everyone to enjoy, and those who ventured into the club early got a special treat. The big-wig execs who skipped the set in favor of grabbing some food at Dukes lost out.

The Goo-Goos lived up to the promise shown by their second LP, Jed (Metal Blade), a collection of bone crunchers that pummel themselves into your consciousness and stick there indefinitely with the aid of some of the best written songs the genre has to offer. They had a well paced set, featuring ‘No Way Out,” “Out of Time,” and “Addicted,” all hits in a world with brains, and an indication that in two more albums these guys are going to be shifting major units. But don’t wait till your neighbors know about them — do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Jed, and go see the band when they return in the fall.

Toad the Wet Sprocket play a more subtle type of pop, and sneak into your nerve centers rather than break the doors down. Their stock in trade is minor chords and major hooks — which combined with sterling, emotive vocals and thoughtful playing makes them irresistible. This show was their first since they were the subject of the biggest bidding war this side of Jane’s Addiction, Columbia being the winner. The band declined fanfare and instead gave the event a house party feel, understatement seeming to be their trump card. When singer/guitarist Glenn Phillips broke a string on the first song, there was no backup guitar to be found — so a fine gentlemen from the audience had to be
recruited to replace it. This allowed drummer Randy Guss — the Henny Youngman of the pop world — to take the spotlight and torture us with some jokes he found in his grandpa’s attic. Perhaps Phillips summed it up best when he quipped “That’s why they sign bands to development deals.”

The operative word for both of these bands is development. They both show masses of potential, and seem to want nothing more than to get their songs to the people. Hopefully their gutsy individuality combined with classic songwriting will be the archetype for the next decade.

The Heavy Metals

GOO GOO MANIA: There are times when life just seems too heavy. Everyone wants something out of you, there’s too much to do, your love life is downright agonizing, and on top of all that, you’re having a birthday, which only serves to remind you of your own mortality. I was in a bad mood. And it might have gotten worse if the Goo Goo Dolls hadn’t come to town.

Maybe the Goo Goo Dolls won’t change everyone’s life, but a 45-minute set of raucous, funny punk-pop and the anarchic mayhem of Robbie, Johnnie and George’s boundless energy should lift anyone’s spirits. I saw four out of the five gigs they played in L.A., and no matter how big or how small the crowd was, they performed with the same crazy irreverence.

Musically, the Goo Goos are hard to categorize — they’re neither alternative, metal or hardcore — but the lack of a strictly defined label suits Robbie just fine. “Hardcore has completely lost any semblance of good music,” he claims, “and metal has become a friggin’ fashion show, or just the opposite — a non-fashion show.” He calls the Goo sound “melodic, screamin’ rock & roll,” but at the same time, he admits, “You turn the amps down, and we’re practically Hank Williams.” That’s sorta debatable — the group is actually closer to Paul Westerberg than old Hank, and much wackier. Their playful attitude has won them several new fans in high places, including John Harrington of William Morris — he’s sending the Goo Goos off on some dates, opening up for 24-7 Spyz. What a great bill!
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