If you had cut off listening to the Goo Goo Dolls 25 years ago, you would have trouble accepting that their latest disc, “Magnetic,” was actually recorded by the same band. It's hard to believe the loveable scamps that once sang “Don't Beat My Ass (With a Baseball Bat)” are the same guys that delivered “Iris” and “Black Balloon” to lite-FM stations' perennial playlists. Through the puzzling process of maturation/selling out/artistic growth (insert your own term here), the Dolls are taking a road similar to that of Bon Jovi – trading some of their substantial rock chops for mass audience acceptance.
Truth be told, “Magnetic” actually follows a trend that began in earnest back with the Dolls' 1998 “Dizzy Up the Girl” album. Prior to that, the band excelled in flawless, razor-sharp power pop peppered with the remnants of the band's punk origins. Since '98, they've gravitated towards acoustic, tween-ready packaging, and on this album, even sampled beats (see lead single “Rebel Beat”).
John Rzeznik continues to be one of the best songwriters in popular music, as evidenced with tracks like “Caught in the Storm” – Rzeznik earnestly articulates how “this faith is getting heavy, but you know it carries me / to the streets, to the river, where the broken dreams flow out into the sea.” The song's soaring chorus and big production are in line with the best of the Goo Goo Dolls over the past decade and a half.
There are too many tracks, however, like “More of You,” which contain elements of over-simplified electronica and, quite frankly, seem beneath the talent of the band. “Bulletproofangel” is a beautifully orchestrated track, somewhat akin to an “Iris, Part 2,” but it has an air of contrived, by-the-books, Top 40 radio fodder. “Come to Me” could've been a leftover from any of the band's last few albums – the gentile acoustic/hand clap vibe is simply uninspired and lifeless.
It's not a “bad” album by any stretch of the imagination, but not on par with what this band once was, or even is currently on the live stage. With every passing album, the Dolls seem less like The Replacements' bratty cousins and more like Taylor Swift's big brothers.
Goo Goo Dolls 'Magnetic' Rating: W W W V