Goo Goo Dolls – Chaos in Bloom

Warner Records Inc.

Release Date: August 12th 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Goo Goo DollsChaos in Bloom (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Yeah, I Like You
  2. War
  3. Save Me From Myself
  4. Let the Sun
  5. Loving Life
  6. Going Crazy
  7. Day After Day
  8. Past Mistakes
  9. You are the Answer
  10. Superstar

I wrote a blog about the Goo Goo Dolls in August 2020, stating their relevance, influence and importance in modern music history. It was perhaps one of the most out-of-left-field artists I listened to at that moment in time (right now, I’d have to say that one of the most out-of-left-field artists [genre-wise] I listened to, and actually thoroughly enjoyed, would have to be artists like Jackie Evancho, Nickelback & Concrete Castles), in a very, very good way. Johnny Rzeznik and Robbie Takac have created a career that has reminded us of what it means to traverse the line of rock, and radio accessibility. While the band has moved from more of an indie-punk/rock band in their early days, to more of a radio-friendly pop-rock band of today (sort of similar to the transition of music of Sanctus Real over the years); the Goo Goo Dolls nevertheless are still some of the few bands out there that really stand out in all the right ways- creating songs that delve deep into the meaning of life, love and everything in between, all the while keeping up with the music game and presenting songs that the generation of now can still connect with. The band’s most recent studio album Miracle Pill was unveiled to us in September 2019, and once again in June 2020- the former a standard 11 track edition of the album, and the latter, a deluxe 14 track collection. It has been Miracle Pill that has really stood out for me over the year of 2020, and certainly an album you can enjoy, if you like similar artists, from Lifehouse and Echosmith, to Sanctus Real and Daughtry. As I reviewed Miracle Pill: Deluxe Edition, and once again reviewed their Christmas album It’s Christmas All Over, even reviewing their acoustic EP EP 21 that released in May 2021, alongside a review of their Rarities album that was unveiled in June 2021; here we are once again in August 2022, with a studio-album follow-up to Miracle Pill– an album called Chaos in Bloom, quite possibly a great standout out of this year’s albums, and an album nonetheless, that can be appreciated and enjoyed if you enjoy the radio-friendliness of the band’s most recent few albums over the years, or if you want something thought-provoking and nothing like the mindless pop music of today. On the whole, I’ve grown to love Goo Goo Dolls– albums like BoxesMiracle PillSomething For the Rest of UsLet Love In and Dizzy Up the Girl are just some of the albums that I’ve heard from the band, that has impacted my own journey in rediscovering what it means for mainstream music being used by the Lord to bring people closer to each other and closer to Him in the process. And their new album Chaos in Bloom, is no different.

Standing at 10 tracks, it almost feels like the album is over before it even begins. And I say all this to say, that as of now, we’re just so accustomed to albums having 12 – 15 tracks (minimum) that when we see an album that has 10 tracks, we instantly write it off as ‘basic’, because…well, we live in a society where more is better, right? But more often than not, sometimes the 10-track albums of the past seem to be more curated and less filler, and I’ve appreciated and enjoyed many 10-track albums in my own childhood (Newsboys’s Step Up to the Microphone, Casting Crowns’ The Altar and the Door, Know Hope Collective’s only album, Kerrie Roberts’s debut album, MercyMe’s All That is Within Me and Natalie Grant’s Hurricane are just some of the many examples of this). Goo Goo Dolls and their brand-new album may ‘lack’ in terms of the no. of tracks, but certainly makes up for it in terms of emotion, poignancy, compelling moments of reflection and introspection, and an overall general atmosphere of hope, positivity, and encouragement, especially after such an uncertain few years that we’ve had, not necessarily as a country and nation, but as a whole world.

Entering the track listing at #1, ‘Yeah, I Like You’ is the first song unveiled by Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac. Upbeat and seemingly jovial (from the outset), the song itself delivers a theme that is anything but; and reminds listeners of this dangerous game that we often play, with ourselves and others. It’s called ‘idol worship’, and this is pretty prevalent all throughout the song, where we see a persona (maybe it’s Johnny himself, or maybe it’s just this hypothetical person) longing for some connection with someone, even if that someone is superficial, conceited, shallow, toxic even, because a connection, even with someone who is indeed questionable, is better than no connection and loneliness, right? ‘Yeah, I Like You’ touches upon this obsession we have with celebrity culture, and how we long to connect with out favourite ‘celebrities’, even if they definitely won’t give a toss about each of us. We try to rationalise it all; but saying that what they’re doing and how they’re living is something we want to emulate, or something we may even want to champion at the end of the day. ‘Yeah, I Like You’ touches on this, and tries to make sense of why we fall too quick, fast, and often for the wrong people. We ‘worship’ people that shouldn’t even hold this mantle or even be on such elevated platforms, and yet we don’t necessarily care. We want and crave connection, and maybe this is the only way to get it? By living vicariously through famous people? Well done Johnny and Robby for such a confronting (and hopefully convicting) song about connection to the point where we want to connect with anyone (regardless of the damning cost that comes along with it) so bad, that we’re willing to overlook everything else, just to get a ‘connection’, as fleeting as it can be.

Throughout the rest of the album, we see the band embark on a musical journey where we are given themes and messages that were brought on, through isolation and lockdowns, things that I’m sure people would’ve reflected upon themselves over the years, as well. ‘War’ carries on from ‘Yeah, I Like You’ in an upbeat drum-prominent atmosphere as the duo present this scenario where the persona acknowledges that there’s this point in a relationship where it’s in fact an act of ‘war’- all the bickering and shaming, the constant arguing and fighting, and that even though deep down they ‘love’ each other, what really is happening, is that both these people who have entered in the relationship, have changed. Maybe even into people that they themselves may not recognise. And because of this (and other unsaid expections, and hoping against hope, that the other person becomes this idealised version of what they hope their partner to be), the physical act of being in the relationship is ‘war’- it takes a toll, and it may even turn someone into a resentful and vengeful type of person. Yes, it’s good to fight for marriages, but sometimes in rare cases, to stay longer and longer in a relationship where both parties aren’t giving their all, is in fact ‘war’, something that happens all to often, especially in Hollywood where all too often, even the slightest disagreements are flippantly diagnosed as ‘war’-like. ‘Save Me From Myself’ is a powerful and emotive 3 minute song that embarks on a self-reflection journey of sorts, and showcases the persona in a vulnerable state where they state that they can’t save themselves, and that they need help from…well, the song alludes to a ‘special someone’ that can come save them, but the song itself can be seen as a way to cry out to God, even if that wasn’t the initial intention. God can use such a song as this to allow people to think more about the divine and things beyond themselves, and because of this, ‘Save Me From Myself’, as ambiguous as it is (in terms of message and theme), can quite possibly be one of the most important songs on Chaos in Bloom.

‘Let the Sun’ strips down the instrumentation quite a bit and places Johnny in front of acoustic guitars (to accentuate the lyrics), as this song is a plea for all the haters and doubters to stop heckling and being Debbie-downers, to stop the judgement and the stereotyping, and longing for the sun to come out again and shine on the less fortunate- even if it means that the same people that are heckling, have a change a heart and help the down-and-outs once in a while; while ‘Loving Life’ features bassist Robbie Takac take the vocal reins and sing a song that encourages people to start living life and loving life again, after a season of isolation and physical distancing. It’s a song that’s meant to spark this yearning and joy for life, that people may have lost over the last few years. ‘Going Crazy’ speaks of this persona who seems to be falling apart inside, after seeing all the happenings that are going on in this world; and is seemingly questioning almost everything that he has experienced in this life, and everything that he assumed to be true. It’s a true existential crisis song, and yet even in a song seemingly as ‘bleak’ as this, there’s still hope, as ‘Going Crazy’ reminds us, that ‘…I’m going crazy, yeah, I’m stuck in a blur, yeah, I’m going crazy, it’s a f***ed up world, help me now ’cause I can’t see what’s left of me, yeah, I’m going crazy, oh, at least I’m alive, yeah, I better laugh if I ain’t gonna cry, don’t know why, but you still the best in me, the best in me…’

‘Day After Day’ is unfortunately as bleak as it sounds- with the persona realising that days that we live are often more monotonous (and maybe even more meaningless) than we even realise, that through quarantine and physical distancing, we understand and even have a revelation, that the life we’ve been living up until now isn’t as fulfilling as we may have been led to believe it was; whilst ‘Past Mistakes’ encourages people to take more personal responsibility for their own mistakes, that sometimes the only person that you can rely on, to help you out of your ‘state-of-being’ that you’re in (other than God, of course), is you. ‘Past Mistakes’ is a moment in time where you realise all the things in your life that you’ve done (or haven’t done) that are detrimental to you and others, and hopefully gives you courage and resolve to make things better, by spurring you on to action instead of passive inaction.

The album is then rounded out by ‘You are the Answer’ and ‘Superstar’. The former is a reflective melody that allows the persona to state that ‘you are the answer you’ve been looking for’, a sentiment that seems to be dichotomous- how can you be the answer to something that you know you’re not, because you know you’re not God and that you can’t fix the things that is wrong with…yourself, others? But herein lies the point, that this phrase can be still true. Yes, you’re not God, and God and only God can fix the things and problems with this world. But He’s also created us to be vessels of hope, encouragement, and love to people we meet, and in that way, we are the answer and the solution to a lot of the things that are wrong, because the Lord has given to us His Holy Spirit, and therefore, as we act in grace, humility and friendship to one another, the other person can hopefully see God in us…hopefully. ‘Superstar’ ends the album at track #10, and is an ode and a homage to…family, friends, someone else entirely? Johnny delivers this song of thanks, gratitude, and mutual respect to a special someone, calling them a ‘superstar’ and highlighting all of the things about this person, that they are specifically grateful for- ‘…you werе the answer to some prayer that I forgot to say…’, that this person showed up at the right time, even if you didn’t even pray and ask for help and assistance. ‘Superstar’ is a great album-ender, and a reminder that there are people in our lives that are indeed ‘superstars’ that maybe we don’t necessarily recognise as often as we should. Hopefully this song encourages us to acknowledge people more often. Well done Johnny and Robby for this powerful song, and a great way to end Chaos in Bloom.

So, there you have it…Chaos in Bloom. Yes, it’s a short album, but it’s an album nonetheless, that has a lot to say. Birthed out of COVID-19 (like a lot of albums these days), the Goo Goo Dolls are now as introspective as ever (they’ve always been more introspective than the average rock band, but this album is much more so). Songs like ‘Yeah, I Like You’, ‘Save Me From Myself’, ‘War’, ‘Superstar’ and ‘You are the Answer’ are some of the standouts, as Johnny and Robby deliver an album full of life, hope, encouragement and purpose, as people try to emerge from isolation with a sense of rebirth, realignment, intentional purpose, and a realisation that the transient nature of life ought to spark a sense of intentionality about their lives, that maybe wasn’t there as much, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Well done Johnny and Robby for this 10 track album. Can’t wait to see which songs resonate with people, in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

3 songs to listen to: Yeah, I Like You, Save Me From Myself, Superstar

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Sanctus Real, Lifehouse, Matchbox Twenty, Daughtry, Echosmith

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