In the 15 years since the release of their chart conquering Dizzy Up The Girl, the Goo Goo Dolls have remained not only remarkably active, but quietly consistent. While many of their contemporaries, whose songs once found chart success alongside “Iris”, “Slide”, and “Black Balloon”, have gone wayside, this Buffalo group have continued on with success not often seen or heard outside of their long serving fanbase. It has been a good thing for the group, that while those who wrote songs like “Closing Time”, “Flagpole Sitta”, “The Freshman” are long gone, the Goos have managed to adapt their pop-infused rock with enough malleability to stay relevant in the constantly revolving door of mainstream radio programming.
Magnetic, like its predecessor Something For The Rest Of Us, is new Goo. Still entrenched in its rock roots, the pop side of the material delves away being guitar driven (as last heard most prominently on Gutterflower), to more beat-based song structures and more robust production. It’s not surprising that much of the material here then, is sounding the most fresh the band have been in years. “Rebel Beat”, the first single, is indicative of their new found comfort with songs that sound like they weren’t written solely on a guitar (and again on the fuzzed out, beat-driven “More Of You”). The infectious bounce of the song boasts modern pop accessibility, but is still replete with trademark Goo Goo Dolls inflection. In “When The World Breaks Your Heart”, there is a joyous, heart warming glow to the song the band have been chasing for several albums. It is a wonderful feelgood song, with both hope and love as its anchor, buoyed by some of the best songwriting John Rzeznik has done in years.
Musically, much of Magnetic feels like continued growth from what they began in Let Love In and furthered in Something For The Rest Of Us. Alongside the more obvious, there are traces of Americana (in the acoustic tinged “Come At Me”), Superstar Car Wash (Robby Takac’s finely distorted coda of “Bringing On The Light”- perhaps one of the best songs Takac has written?) and conventional balladry (“BulletProofAngel”). Yet there is a balance between the material that previous albums have struggled to find; a tonal feeling, or a mood, absent from the past few releases.
It’s hard to say whether or not the Goo Goo Dolls will ever reach the same heights they did during the close of the 1990s. And as one listens through Magnetic, it is also hard to believe this band has been around since 1986; because so many of their kind burned out so long ago and because the new album sounds distinctly in-tune with the contemporary understanding of popular music. The Goo Goo Dolls have and will always be more than “Iris”. The material that preceded it and the material after is a sign of their long lasting appeal. With the undeniably catchy nature of Magnetic, the appropriately titled album is the sound of a band at their finest.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.