The Goo Goo Dolls have changed a lot over the years.
The early Metal Blade sloppy rock kicks (and inevitable Replacements
comparisons) have long since faded away. Now the band is mostly known
for a series of gorgeous radio ballads like "Name," "Iris" and "Black
While the band has definitely learned how to craft a
slick commercial single, the funny thing is that the band's music has also
improved as they moved steadily into the mainstream. While the snotty
punk-poppers of Hold Me Up probably would have been incredulous to
think that they would someday be best known for quirky love songs, the band
does have an undeniable knack for a pop hook. However, with the
relative failure of their last studio album -- 2002's slightly morose
Gutterflower -- the group is in a bit of an awkward position.
Lead singer and main songwriter Johnny Rzeznick
actually reacted to this by bringing in a ringer, doing some co-writing and
handing over the production reigns to Glenn Ballard (Alanis Morisette,
Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band.) The other band songwriter Robby Takac,
who tends to be more rock-oriented, is relegated to co-writing a couple of
songs with Rzeznick.
The album has been heavily previewed. Months
before the album release, the first single, another gorgeous and moody
ballad called "Better Days" became a relatively big hit. Their hit remake of Supertramp's "Give A Little Bit"
is also here (it originally appeared on their 2004 Live in Buffalo CD) and is
still a nice pop single -- although, granted, it is so closely carbon copied
that it more like a Supertramp single than Goo Goo Dolls. The band
was a lot more adventurous with their covers in their early days, like when they
did an off-the-wall take on Prince's "I Could Never Take the Place of Your
Man" complete with lounge singer The Incredible Lance Diamond doing guest
vocals. However, even if this version breaks no new ground, it still
goes down easy.
The rest of the album seems somewhat more hopeful than
the band was in Gutterflower, but otherwise rather similar in terms
of songcraft and catchiness. They crank things up a tiny bit with the
surging current single "Stay With You." The acoustically based title
track and driving anthemic "Can't Let It Go" show the band's mastery of soft
pop. Takac's two songs (co-written with Rzeznick) -- "Strange Love"
and "Listen" -- harken back to the band's sloppier more rocking days, and
stand out amongst the mid-tempo smoothness of much of the rest of the album.
Let Love In is not necessarily this
long-running band's best work, but the band is always worth a spin.