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Goo Goo Dolls

In the shadow of Iris

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By Gary Graff  
artist

On their latest album, Let Love In, the Goo Goo Dolls found that you actually can go home again. In their case, that means Buffalo, N.Y., where the trio formed in 1985 as a punky hard rock act, eventually honing itself into the polished, multi-platinum hit machine that spawned such singles as "Iris," "Slide," and "Black Balloon." Let Love In isn't a return to the roots of that sound, but it does show that a rooted Goo Goo Dolls is still more than capable of crafting a distinctive rock sound.

Q: What sent you back to Buffalo for this album?

Johnny Rzeznik: I was just sitting in Los Angeles trying to write, and it was the middle of December and eighty degrees and sunny outside, and I was just like, "There's something fundamentally wrong with this." So I loaded up the U-Haul truck with all my recording equipment and amps and guitars and stuff and drove back to Buffalo. We found this old Masonic temple with a big ballroom and set up a recording studio there, and just started banging away, writing. Being in the cold, being in the winter again really inspired me.

Q: What impact did being back there again make?

Rzeznik: It was an eye-opener, man. I got to face a lot of demons and unfinished business that you always have when you leave your home town. But it was cool. It was good to hang out with real people, real friends. I felt really strong, being close to that foundation of myself. I felt like I settled some things in my own head and got back in touch with the plot of what this band is all about.

Q: The plot?

Rzeznik: I was thinking back about all the records we had made up until Gutterflower (2002), and there was always this kind of hope involved in them. No matter how tragic the lyrics might have sounded, there was always this kind of hope -- "Well, things are bad, but we'll get through it and we'll be fine." Then I think on Gutterflower I lost that. We had gotten pretty successful with Dizzy Up the Girl, and then I sort of withdrew. I got really bummed out and depressed and disillusioned with how people treat you differently. So it was fun to get back to Buffalo, 'cause your friends will always tell you exactly what they think of you, no matter what. And it was good to be near my family. They're always interested in reminding me of who I am, that I'm their little brother. It was great, and really brought me back to a place where I felt comfortable again.

Q: What made you decide to cover Supertramp's "Give A Little Bit?"

Rzeznik: We did a studio version to include on the Live From Buffalo DVD, and it was time for us to do a cover song, anyway. I just love the song. I went back and listened to it after not hearing it for a long time and was like, "OK, we gotta chop this song in half." I didn't remember all the saxophone solos and all the other strange stuff going on. So we took out all the long, 1970's FM kind of stuff that you could get away with back then, and chopped it into what I like to call "The Best of 'Give a Little Bit'." (laughs)

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.