Pop played loud. Unheralded though they may be, Goo Goo Dolls ought to be applauded for quietly amassing a legacy that, while largely overlooked, is far more significant than many a band with a larger profile..
The album art for Boxes, the 11th album by the Goo Goo Dolls and the first since drummer Mike Malinin left the band, suggests a ceaseless expansion of cardboard portals into the universe -- a heady metaphor for a record that finds the group boring into mundane earthly concerns. As part of this embrace of the present, the Goo Goo Dolls -- now merely a duo of John Rzeznik and Robby Takac -- unapologetically embrace their middle age, excising any remaining hints of the raucous rock band of yore and splitting their time between power ballads and insistent anthems. Hints of "Iris" and its aftermath are heard throughout but Rzeznik and Takac do pay attention to modern music, threading in portions of the gated hip-hop rhythms of Twenty One Pilots on occasion.
Expectations are a dangerous thing. It’s been 18 years since Goo Goo Dolls put out Dizzy Up the Girl, a record which, for all its predictable anthemic pop rock tropes, is a pretty great listen even now. Plus it gave us “Iris” and “Slide”, two of the best scream-along-with-your-friends songs of the turn of the millennium. So even though years of watching the magic die in bands that had a good moment way back when has prepared me to hear this album with the bar set low, I was still hoping for an “Iris”, but updated.
As always, the veteran, Buffalo-based pop-rock band is a well-oiled positivity machine that finds the silver lining in adversity: "Every breath's a moment, every moment is a chance to live again," sings frontman John Rzeznik on the soaring "Souls in the Machine. " However, Boxes adds unexpected flourishes to the Goos' usual strident acoustic rhythms and chiming electric guitars. The minimal, piano-brightened "Flood" prominently features Echosmith's Sydney Sierota, who meshes perfectly with Rzeznik, while the Jack's Mannequin-reminiscent "The Pin" boasts subtle, sighing background harmonies and an aggressive, roller coaster of a chorus melody.