It’s safe to say that the Goo Goo Dolls aren’t the same band they were through the late 80s and early 90s. Once angst-ridden, their earliest material was an edgy blend of accessible Replacements-esque rock with punk-tipped rough edges, all in sharp contrast to the polished pop-rock seen from Dizzy Up the Girl and onwards. Yet regardless of their change in musical attitude, the quality sheen that has always been part of their repertoire has remained intact. While Let Love In suffered from a little over production, Something For the Rest of Us is as close to mainstream cohesion as they’ve ever been.
It’s a strong mix of more up-tempo numbers (“Sweetest Lie”, “Say You’re Free”) with big sounding ballads (the single “Home”, “Something for the Rest of Us”) and just enough smooth edges. Ever since “Name”, they’ve perfected pop-rock melancholia, and in “Notbroken”, the Goo Goo Dolls cut a fine image of somber self-reflection to the tune of gushy guitar melodies and piano textures. “Still Your Song” shines a little like “Black Balloon” does, and it’s hard to move past Rzeznik’s oft-heartfelt callings without feeling a genuine connection.
Takac’s contribution to the songlist this time around is again just two songs, but they both add enough contrast to Rzeznik’s cleaner croon. And his track “Say You’re Free” is the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re listening to Superstar Car Wash again.
There are two widely contrasting points to the Goo Goo Dolls spectrum. They were a great garage band whose razor sharp punk-tinged rock carved a sharp edge through those early 90s grunge bands and then there’s the instantly recognizable, radio friendly “Iris” era Goos. It is a path their albums have continued to follow since, and as Something For the Rest of Us proves, it really doesn’t matter if they rarely venture away from familiar territory as their brand of alternative rock continues to be an honest representation of their current musical frame of mind. And this tension-free warmth and guitar-string sincerity is something they have always done with particular success.
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.