The Goo Goo Dolls: Dizzy Up the Girl

Commercial rock is like a summer blockbuster movie. There are explosions, car chases, good looking actors, catchy jokes, and a plot that you've seen 100 times before and will gladly watch 100 times again. Often, its heart and soul -- if it ever had one -- has been stripped away in the name of making a truckload of money, but that's okay because we're just there for a good time!

Rock snobs love to pick on commercial rock. It's big and loud and shiny, and it appeals to the masses. But tucked away in the darkest corner of every rock snob's heart is a secret place where our guilty pleasures reside. Some of us keep a few Journey albums back there, while others have something by Creed or Nickelback hidden away. Me? Mixed in with my darkest musical secrets is a copy of the song "Iris."

It's unfair that "Iris" was included on Dizzy Up the Girl, because the album can't possibly compare. There's nothing wrong with the album, mind you; it is simple, commercial rock that doesn't aspire to be anything different. "Slide," "Broadway," and "Black Balloon" are all good songs that got a lot of radio play, but I don't ever need to hear them again. As for the album tracks, there's nothing I'd shut off, but nothing reaches out and grabs me, either.

But "Iris" ... well, it just might be a perfect song. I don't even know how to describe it. It sounds like a simple pop song, but if you dig beneath the surface, there's some serious magic. The only tangible thing I can pinpoint is the way the time signature shifts from 3/4 to 4/4 during the solo. I'd heard the song probably 10 times before I realized there was a time change. It's subtle, and it's very effective. It's the kind of thing that separates generic commercial bands from extraordinary commercial bands.

Dizzy Up the Girl is solid, commercial rock with a moment of greatness at the end of the album. It makes me wonder why we're not supposed to like big, shiny rock songs, because big, shiny rock songs can be a whole lot of fun.

Music: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
It would be a 3.5, but "Iris" bumps it up into a higher class. And 3.5 is probably too harsh, because this is really good mainstream rock. The instruments sound good, the performances are energetic, and the production is nice and big. There are subtle touches buried in the recordings, which makes for many listens without getting bored.

Packaging: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The cover photo is incredible. The rest of the package is good but uninspired. You can read my thoughts about the cover at Whole Lotta Album Covers.

Listen if you like: big rock bands like Foreigner or 38 Special or Foo Fighters.

If it were food, it'd be: A double combo from Wendy's.


bob_vinyl said...

I consider 4/5 to be best of genre and this is surely best of genre. I just wonder if there is a penalty when the genre is generic rock.

taotechuck said...

I'd wondered that too, but by the time a style of music has become defined enough to become a genre, the bands in that genre are, by default, somewhat generic. Why is being a mainstream rock band any more generic than being a pop-punk band, or an emo band, or a garage rock band? I think a lot of it is simply because the rock snobs and the indie kids poo-poo mainstream rock. My guess is that Goo Goo Dolls are no more generic than Bad Religion or Built to Spill, they're just playing a slightly different game.

bob_vinyl said...

I understand your point, but you need to pick better examples, because Bad Religion and Built to Spill had a role in defining their genres. The Goo Goo Dolls just did a good job of doing what others already did. I'm actually a good bit more forgiving of mainstream rock that you are, yet there is no case for the Goo Goo Dolls being an important band, with or without "Iris." Things designed for their commercial value are, by default, flawed. To the extent that pop-punk and emo are now designed for money-making, you are correct. Better examples would be Blink 182 and Hawthorne Heights.

taotechuck said...

So let me ask you this: Fleetwood Mac was a basic blues-rock band until Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined. Then they became a commercial rock band, and a damned good one. Should they be penalized because they consciously decided to play in the genre of commercial rock? (Keep in mind, they didn't really experiment until Tusk, which is ambitious but arguably the weakest album from the Buckingham / Nicks / McVie / McVie / Fleetwood line-up.)

I'll trust you on Bad Religion, though their contribution to punk seems much more via their label than anything else, but you know the genre better than I do. Built to Spill, though, is a really good indie band, but I don't know that I'd call them defining. They found a niche amidst the Pavements and Yo La Tengos of the indie world, but I don't know how much new ground they actually paved. What they did do, though, was figure out where they fit in the musical landscape, and they carved out their little spot. Which is exactly what GGD did, particularly after they stopped trying to be the Replacements and accepted their fate as arena rockers.

I don't know, I'm just thinking aloud. Everything I'm saying might be bullshit, because I'm struggling with this whole concept of commercial rock being a genre. I've always thought of commercial rock as being the roots from which everything else (and everything interesting) grows.

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I love IRIS! Thanks for writing this post...I agree with you. There are lots of songs like this one that are just not "cool" to admit to liking but this one just gets me every time. I kick myself because I turned down the opportunity to attend a private concert they did in March and would have got to meet them (and yes,I think Johnny Rezeznik is HOT).

P.S. to Bob, yeah I like Blink 182 also

taotechuck said...

Wow... it's a shame you missed that one. Private shows like that are almost always good, no matter who the band is. And I'd be willing to bet that GGD would've been great in that context, because they strike me as a band that doesn't take their success for granted. Kind of like Poison, supposedly. They may suck, but caring about your fans goes a long way.