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Goo Goo Dolls – Magnetic

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.

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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.

(Warner Bros.)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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