The Goo Goo Dolls were made for the 90s. When the big bands dropped off the charts, where were we to get our fix of melodic rock with acoustic ballads? From Buffalo, NY. Their sixth Goos album, Dizzy Up the Girl, was the latest in a stream of albums that got progressively less punk and more acoustic. It was also their first album with critically acclaimed new drummer Mike Malinin, and the first since they had a huge single in “Name”. It’s no surprise they went further in that direction.
Commercial intents aside, Dizzy Up the Girl is a remarkable album. Every song helmed by singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik boasts an explosive chorus. The four tracks with bassist Robby Takac singing are the ones that maintain a punk aesthetic, but with a refined sense of composition.
Lead track “Dizzy” is the first of many great single-worthy choruses. In fact it was a single, though not the biggest of the bunch. That would of course be Iris, previously issued on the soundtrack to City of Angels. The 90s were not that much different from the 80s when it came down to it, and a power ballad is what made the Goos a household name. Better than Iris though is the single “Slide”. It charted just as high as “Iris” (#1) in the US and Canada. Unlike “Iris”, “Slide” has a driving acoustic vibe. It’s the kind of tune Extreme made their bread and butter with, like “Hole Hearted”.
Two years after “Iris”, the album was still producing singles. “Broadway” is just as good as “Slide” with more emphasis on the electric guitar. It has an earthy, down home quality. “Black Balloon”, another single, takes it back to acoustic with harmonics, and strings added by Canadian David Campbell (father of Beck). Even without the accompaniment it’s one of their biggest and best choruses.
Takac’s four tunes (“January Friend”, “Amigone”, “Full Forever”, and “Extra Pale”) are great breaks between Rzeznik’s more mainstream crooning. Robby’s rasp isn’t commercial but it’s the only real link back to their punk rock days. His songs don’t suck. “Amigone” (pronounced “Am I Gone”) sticks to the brain like chunky peanut butter.
Four of the five singles are top-loaded onto the front of the album, normally a death knell for a solid listen. Not in this case. The Goos boasted album tracks as good as their singles. “Acoustic #3” is good enough to be yet another single. “Bullet Proof”, with its driving guitar, could have been the album opener. The chorus lifts off to the atmosphere. It’s the kind of chorus you expected from the 1980s, not the 1990s. A dramatic “All Eyes On Me” could also have been a solid album opener. All they need is a closer! Nope, they got that too: “Hate This Place” winds things up nicely the way it began. “Hold on, dream away, you’re my sweet charade.”
Dizzy Up the Girl might not be up your alley, but in the 90s, choice was more limited. It was hard to find mainstream rock that didn’t suck. This one stands the test of time, with a collection of excellent guitar-based tunes that fit the mold.