The most played song on my iTunes library in 10th grade was probably The Goo Goo Dolls’s “Slide” from Dizzy Up the Girl in 1998. It was the song that first introduced me to the band. I fell in love with the guitar rhythm that felt weightless, a cascading opening melody and lyrics that, as cheesy as it sounds, hurt to listen to — just the way songs do when they ring true.
The Goo Goo Dolls’s latest album, Boxes, doesn’t feature anything as poignant or tightly crafted as some of their previous work, but that doesn’t make it any less pleasant to listen to. Boxes reveals a more mellow side to the group. As always, frontman John Rzeznik’s voice adds a bit of texture to the song’s sentiments without pulling focus from the song as a whole — which is almost always a good thing.
However, the album’s first song, “Over and Over,” feels bizarrely too young for this album and The Goo Goo Dolls as a group. It would be the kind of fun mindless track you forget you’re actually listening to until it stops, if it weren’t for the chirpy chorus of “Turn it up!” This kind of chirpiness works better later on in a light, dancing piano melody in the song “So Alive.” “Souls in the Machine,” which follows it, picks up the pace a little bit; it feels like the antithesis to something like Pink Floyd’s “Brick in the Wall.”
When the chorus of “Flood” hits, it’s more gentle than you expect, making it much more pleasant and somehow more subtle, despite its obvious love-song-like quality. “The Pin” and “Boxes” deal with the less passionate parts of a love story: with the comfort and safety that comes with a love that feels like a home. The first lyrics of “Free of Me” — and the way they’re sung in an ever-so-slightly petulant tone — sound unusually similar to Simple Plan. The next two songs, “Reverse” and “Prayer in My Pocket” follow suit. The beginning of “Lucky One” sounds like a mashup between a Taylor Swift and a Sam Smith song (I promise, it’s true). “Long Way Home,” the final song on the album, includes a sprightly piano sequence, emphatic drum beats and a familiar return to home — a warm way to round out the album.
Boxes is, more than anything, comfortable. The Goo Goo Dolls fall back on safe melodies, unsurprising beats and lyrics that feel like they could have come from an Imagine Dragons or One Republic album. The amount of repetition and the similarity of styles to other artists in the album stand out. It feels slightly been there, done that — nothing like the freshness of songs like “Slide,” “Iris,” “Black Balloon” or dancing-in-the-rain kind of hits like “Rebel Beat” or “Last Hot Night.” The sentiments are comfortable and comforting in their familiarity, but they don’t make me laugh or cry or do anything other than find comparisons to other songs. Nothing sticks with me, which is slightly disappointing — especially considering that “Slide” is probably still within the top ten of my iTunes, even five years after I’d heard those opening four measures.