Release Date: June 26th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Miracle Pill
- Money, Fame & Fortune
- Step in Line
- Over You
- Life’s a Message
- Autumn Leaves
- Think it Over
- Tonight, Tonight
- The Right Track
- Just a Man
If I am to be honest in such a way, I’d have to say that I don’t think people right now know who the Goo Goo Dolls are. I mean they may know a song called ‘Iris’ that was big during the 1990s, but they may certainly not know the artist who was singing it, or the fact that the band that was certainly popular way back then, is definitely making music right now as well. Because…how could they know about the band, when there are so many more other ‘popular’ acts to choose from- Green Day, Paramore, Good Charlotte, Panic! at the Disco, Maroon 5, Mumford & Sons, Florence & The Machine, The Script, Twenty One Pilots, 5 Seconds of Summer, Florida Georgia Line and The Civil Wars; have all caught our eye as we channelled all our energy to these bands throughout the last 10 – 15 years, and so for the Goo Goo Dolls to ever get a mention or even a second-glance notice over the last little while…not really that possible. Nevertheless, what I’ve said in countless blogs before still stands and rings true, even in this situation. That popular and influential aren’t necessarily the same, nor should they be. Someone can be extremely popular amongst the charts but all they sing is vapid superlative stuff, but then you can have the other artist who people may not have heard of at all, but their music captures the essence of what it means to wrestle with the human condition, and touches your soul in ways unimaginable. Or you can have artists that fall along that spectrum somewhere- from being popular and saying nothing at all, to being a great storyteller, and no one knowing your name. It’s hard to find a right balance between these two extremes, and the Goo Goo Dolls seem to fit somewhere in there, but to the average commonfolk, they may just not know where. I wrote this above quote in my blog about the Goo Goo Dolls about a couple of months ago. It was perhaps one of the most out-of-left-field artists I listened to over the last year and a half, in a very, very good way. Johnny Rzeznik and Robbie Takar 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 connect with. The band’s most recent 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 last couple of months or so, and certainly an album you can enjoy, if you like similar artists, from Lifehouse and Echosmith, to Sanctus Real and Daughtry.
Miracle Pill was unveiled to us in September 2019, and for me personally, feels like one of the most cohesive albums (from start to finish) that they have recorded in their whole career. Mind you, both Johnny and Robbie are in their mid-50s, and so a transition from grunge-rock (where your vocals are powerful and you’re screaming out the words out a lot), to melodic pop-radio friendly A/C music was always going to happen when the band maybe even realised that reaching some of the powerful rock anthemic-notes was always going to be difficult to reach as time went on. But if you take Miracle Pill for what it is- a pop album, it’s pretty good. With the standard edition being 11 tracks long, and the deluxe, 14; this is a set of songs that reflect the current mood of society right now, and what the band reckon the listeners need to hear and listen to in such a political climate as this.
The powerful anthems are more bunched-up towards the beginning of the album- ‘Indestructible’ speaks of the transformation time that Johnny himself had from being in a time where he was rock-bottom, to now with a wife and child and feeling indestructible because of that; while ‘Fearless’ is a declaratory anthem that can be sung during COVID-19, and speaks of how we as a collective community and society have the impetus and the courage to run down our fears, demons and worries, becoming fearless and using the things that shake us as a catalyst to fuel our faith- in people, and in God to bring the situation around for our good. Title track ‘Miracle Pill’ longs for a proverbial metaphorical pill that can be taken, providing an instant miracle to curb all the ups and downs, the darkness, fear and doubts that often haunt a person on a daily basis, while many other songs present heartfelt and emotive themes, from stating that the connection and relationship of another is the metaphorical money, fame and fortune needed to make life complete (‘Money, Fame and Fortune’) and moving forward in life in a straight line, saying goodbye to pain and confronting the loss that needs to be resolved for full healing to take place (‘Step in Line’), to lamenting a loss of a relationship and admitting maybe even selfishly that you can’t get over the person, because of the hold they still have on your heart, for whatever reason (‘Over You’). ‘Lights’ is a soulful and hopeful melody about wanting to know when someone is coming back home after a long stint away- maybe it’s a literal ‘this person has gone away for some reason and you’re sitting by the porch, waiting for their return’, but often when I hear this song, I cast my mind back to the Bible story of the prodigal son, and how when the son went away and blew all his inheritance, the father was still waiting for his return, no matter how slim and improbable it was.
‘Lost’ encourages us all as individuals to own the fact that we often get lost sometimes, and it’s ok if that happens to us- it doesn’t make us any less of a man/woman if we feel like we can’t find our way sometimes; while ‘Life’s a Message’ is a song people of this generaion need to hear, a reminder that how we live our lives is indeed a message we want to give out for people, intended or not. How we live our lives is a reflection on the message and beliefs we, either subconsciously or not, want to portray out to people, and how we live life connect to people on a soul-to-soul level. ‘Life’s a Message’ reminds us all that life is much more metphysical and spiritual than maybe we even care to admit, and that in and of itself, is an interesting thing indeed, that we as people need to unpack and delve into, especially during such a time as COVID-19. ‘Autumn Leaves’ bring this notion of transient seasons to life, as we understand and realise that Autumn is just that- a season, not lasting forever, but nevertheless, shaping a person’s character and reminding us all that every situation and season in our lives has a purpose and a role in playing to shape the people we were meant to be. ‘Think it Over’, the last song on the original track-listing of the album; has the heavy guitars that harken back to the Goo Goo Dolls of old, while the message of it is impactful too- about the accepting of a relationship ending, and reflecting upon certain points within it, so as to learn from what has happened and to become a better person in light of the breakup. ‘Think About It’ challenges listeners to think about these things- life, love, breakups, and the reason why; and is a tremendously underrated song within the whole Miracle Pill deluxe edition set.
The deluxe edition of the 2019 album, boasts 3 new songs- ‘Tonight, Together’, ‘The Right Track’ and ‘Just a Man’. ‘Tonight Together’ tackles the underspoken issue of loneliness and reminds us all of the fact that we as people long for human connection, not wanting to die alone and wanting to live life with people around us that can build us up and edify our spirits; while ‘The Right Track’ is a great piece of work that is just an encouragement to those fighting the good fight, that we’re on the right track when it comes to helping those in society who may feel like they can’t help themselves for whatever reason. ‘Just a Man’, the last track on the deluxe edition; is an identity building song, singing to all the naysayers and the doubters, that the band, and more specifically, Johnny and Robbie, have the final say about who they want to be, both individually and as Goo Goo Dolls. A song that asserts authority in a confident way, Miracle Pill as a whole is a great album to listen to if you’re feeling down and want an album to lift your spirits.
The band has come a long way since the start in the 1980s and 1990s. And while I’ll never truly know how it’s like to enjoy this band from its inception, what I have known about them is nevertheless impressing me more and more, and reminding me that there are still bands out there that are willing to speak directly to the heart of the person, never compromising message, and never forsaking heartfelt poignancy and truth, for the sake of a ‘good’ popular song. The band have made a name for themselves, both musically and behind the scenes, and for a duo after 34 years, their message still going strong, and a fanbase still active and vibrant- it’s all a miracle, if you ask me. And I know that all good things end, and all things end period. I guess sometimes when you’re in a business of giving oneself to the masses, either in the form of music or philanthropy or otherwise, there is never really a moment where you do ‘retire’ per se- you never have an ‘ending’ to your career- you just move on and your career can look a little different, but your message of connection, emotion, relationship, and themes like hope, asking the questions ‘why’, those things will still be the same. It is a reminder that even as Christians in this life, we must never look at life like as something that we need to finish- we’re always learning and growing, always admitting when we get things wrong, and exploring the things that we believe God has imprinted on our hearts to undertake. Goo Goo Dolls and their career (and especially their new album Miracle Pill), and attitude to life has rubbed off on me in a good way. It has re-evaluated my love and appreciation of 1990s and 2000s music, and for that and that alone, songs like ‘Iris’ and ‘Better Days’ have shaped and influenced my own array and direction of music of late…which is a very, very good thing indeed! Well done to both Johnny and Robbie for creating this great pop album, one that challenges us all, all the while with pop music that sounds good. Can’t wait for the full-length Christmas album, when it is unveiled to us all in October 2020!
5 songs to listen to: Fearless, Lost, Life’s a Message, Just a Man, Step in Line
RIYL: Sanctus Real, Lifehouse, Matchbox Twenty, Daughtry, Echosmith