Goo Goo Dolls - 'Boxes'

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Goo Goo Dolls - 'Boxes'

If someone were to label it the worst album of the band's career, even Johnny Cochran would struggle to make a case for the defence.

Over the last few years an increasing number of older Rock acts have been struck down by the debilitating disease known as the "Bon Jovi Syndrome". Symptoms include a pathological fear of loud guitars, coupled with a desperate need to ride the zeitgeist train to trendy city, intent on seducing a more youthful fan base. Following in the afflicted footsteps of Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas, Buffalo superstars the Goo Goo Dolls are the latest victims of this merciless condition.

Now a duo after drummer Mike Malinin's acrimonious departure, John Rzeznik and Robby Takac have fashioned such an unashamed Pop album that many fans will be yelling "find an antidote" when exposed to the blandness of 'Boxes'. Making a Pop album isn't a crime if it's a good one... if it excites. This isn't and doesn't. Where the guys previous release (2013's 'Magnetic') was a superb Pop Rock hybrid that melded their trademark aesthetic with a fizzing contemporary sound, 'Boxes' relegates Rzeznik's characteristic guitar work to a supporting role as synths, programmed drum loops, piano and electronic flavours dominate the over-produced sonic landscape.

Without that six-string drive nothing ignites, while a lack of rousing choruses compounds the dullness, crippling 'The Flood', 'Pull The Pin' and 'Long Way Home' as their flat, repetitive hooks lack the soaring dynamism of past glories, such as 'Here Is Gone' or 'Big Machine'.

Although 'Over And Over' and its bouncing anthemics deliver a more uplifting refrain, take away Rzeznik's singing, and it could be any generic act like One Republic or The Script. Unfortunately, his wonderful rasp is saturated with reverb throughout, and filtering it through a vocoder on the dance-floor chorus of 'Reverse' makes him sound like Cher; not cool eighties Rock-chick Cher, but nineties granny-disco Cher! That lack of identity defines this album. Only the beautifully romantic title track comes close to matching their finest moments, although 'Souls In The Machine' and 'Takac's Free Of Me' are both maturely woven Pop efforts that can hold their heads high.

'Boxes' isn't as cringe worthy as Thomas' recent attempts at Pop stardom; but if someone were to label it the worst album of the band's career, even Johnny Cochran would struggle to make a case for the defence.

Simon Ramsay

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