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2. Goo Goo Dolls, A Boy Named Goo

There are a lot of albums on this particular countdown that sound intensely, almost painfully tied to their era. I tend to consider the different records that are so desperately trying to ape the Seattle sound as the most characteristic of the time. They contributed mightily to the numbing sameness of the commercial alternative stations that briefly flared up, including the one I worked at all through 1995. I think I may be a little off-base with that theory, though. Listening to it anew, I’m now convinced that A Boy Named Goo is the most direly nineteen-nineties album of all.

A Boy Named Goo is the fifth full-length release from the Buffalo, New York band Goo Goo Dolls, and it was absolutely their biggest, glossiest record to that point. Produced by Lou Giordano, the album doesn’t really get dirty enough to feel like a reaction to grunge. Instead, it’s hard rock pumped up with an airy blitheness. It’s well-played enough, but ultimately feels exceedingly generic. There are big guitars, thumping drums, and lyrics straining with anguish. “Flat Top” is fairly typical, spilling out empty profundities: “A television war between the cynics and the saints/ Flip the dial and that’s whose side you’re on/ A-sleeping on the White House lawn ain’t never changed a thing/ Just look at all the washed out hippie dreams” They charge forcefully through song like “Long Way Down” and “So Long” without ever instilling them with any real character. Practically everything on the album is blandly interchangeable.

There is an exception to the plodding sameness, and it delivered the band the biggest hit of their career. “Name” is a the sort of ballad that every hard rock band needed to have up their tattered sleeve in the nineties, basically following the model established by Extreme when they had a massive success with “More Than Words,” a very different offering from their usual sound.  “Name” took two different trips to the pinnacle of the Modern Rock chart and topped the Mainstream Rock chart for a full month. On the main Billboard chart, it peaked at #5, the first of three Top 10 songs and eight total trips to the Top 40. It’s one of those instances in which a single track clearly changed everything for a band, including, it seems, locking them in as an enduring act. I think of Goo Goo Dolls as a group that peaked and them slipped in to irrelevance, but they’ve been continually making music this whole time, never going more than four years without a new studio album. That level of endurance is worthy of admiration, even if the newer stuff just sounds bland in a different way.

Previously….

An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above
— 38-36: Collide, Cowboys and Aliens, and Batman Forever
— 35-33: Taking the World by Donkey, One Hot Minute, and Dog Eared Dream
— 32 and 31: Straight Freak Ticket and Besides
— 30-28: Sixteen Stone, Big Dumb Face Shoe Guy, and Cascade
— 27-25: Born to Quit, King, and Hate!
— 24 and 23: Sparkle and Fade and Brown Bag LP
— 22 and 21: University and Pummel
— 20 and 19: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Thread
— 18 and 17: Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and Rainbow Radio
— 16 and 15: Let Your Dim Light Shine and Day For Night
— 14 and 13: Tales from the Punchbowl and Sleepy Eyed
— 12 and 11: Post and Deluxe
— 10: Yes
— 9: To Bring You My Love
— 8: Garbage
— 7: 100% Fun
— 6: Only Everything
— 5: Brainbloodvolume
— 4: The Bends
— 3: Foo Fighters

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