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Goo Goos Thin on Inspiration, Faithful to Their Punk Core

POP MUSIC REVIEW

July 19, 1996|RICHARD CROMELIN

Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik noted at the El Rey Theatre on Wednesday that this was the 241st date on the band's current tour. And there were times when the show felt like it--stretches of generic-sounding guitar rock played without a lot of inspiration, a lack of intense connection with the audience.

Of course the audience is a little different for the Buffalo-based trio this time around. Last year's uncharacteristic folk-pop ballad "Name" elevated the Goo Goo Dolls from eternally touring club band status to widespread radio presence; the hard core that supported the group through its years of slogging was supplemented at the El Rey by a new layer of more casually involved kids.

While expanding the Goo Goos' range a bit, "Name" doesn't seem to mark a watershed change--it looks more like a blip in the long career of a band that itself is a blip in the post-punk landscape.

It might mean bigger venues and new stage lighting, but this show was basic, bedrock Goo Goos--earnest, unpretentious, derivative (introducing the song they wrote with Paul Westerberg, Rzeznik even joked about the group's similarity to the Replacements). Punk-rock drive is buoyed by pop hooks a la Cheap Trick, and the frustrations and discontents Rzeznik addresses are resolved in wistfulness rather than cathartic rage.

Ultimately, the Goo Goo Dolls by any "Name" remain a supplemental rather than essential unit, journeymen in the best and worst senses of the word.

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