Sound — 7
Though anything seemed possible after the mild "Something for the Rest of Us," the pop-ish immediacy of the Goo Goo Dolls' latest, "Magnetic," is somewhat alarming. Opener "Rebel Beat" will certainly offend no one apart from fundamentalist fans of "Dizzy Up the Girl" and "A Boy Named Goo," but it certainly won't impress the casual listener either. The rest of the record proceeds likewise: plenty of bubblegum pop-rock to pass the slow afternoons and long car rides of Summer 2013. To say that the record is a letdown is hyperbolic when remembering the Dolls' last few releases, but one would think the band would attempt some visitation of what made it a hit. Instead, "Magnetic" is one soft acoustic tune after the next, never once treading the pop-punk of their nineties incarnation.
While the formula is certainly far from the front page, it is occasionally enjoyable. "Come to Me" is pleasant with hints of Jack Johnson, the verses of "Caught in the Storm" reflect some of the baritone of "Iris," and even the very poppy "More of You" is at least inviting. "BulletProofAngel" is obnoxious, but no one tuning in will notice. To that end, where the record fails is almost entirely up to the listener. Any casual fan, especially of a certain age demographic and unaware of the band's earlier work, won't notice the comparative weakness. A scrutinizing ear, however, will note the relative ease with which the Dolls paint their landscape, which consists mainly of eye-grabbing colors. The most nuance this record has is an accidental ending, which is so understated it barely feels like a closer. Apart from that, virtually every track is a standard crowd-pleaser.
"Magnetic," quite accidentally, lives up to its name: attracting every ear within a certain radius without actually giving much to listen to. It's a tradition the Dolls had fallen into since the explosive success of "Dizzy"'s big single, "Iris," and no one familiar with their 2000s discography will be surprised. It certainly is a bit of a shame, considering the skill on display in "A Boy Named Goo." Rather than advance in any particular direction, it seems the band is content with radio-friendly acoustic pieces and sub-standard melodic work. Similarly, "Magnetic" is essentially another collection of radio-friendly, acoustic-driven pop-rock: enjoyable, but by no means profound.
Lyrics — 6
As per usual, vocal lead alternates between Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac. Rzeznik is, on "Magnetic," sporting the typical soft pop singer badge. Takac is a bit grittier and knows less what to do with vowels, but at the very least has a bit of character. The alternations are essentially meaningless, with neither being particularly better or worse than the other, nor particularly complimentary or detrimental to the overall sound. With acoustic-laden pop-rock, it's often difficult to determine whether the singer needs character in the first place. This is, after all, the same genre the Disney Channel stars subscribe to. As long as the band sells, is anyone (including the performers) really paying attention to performance value?
The entire lyrical existence of the Goo Goo Dolls in the 21st century can be summarized with "When the World Breaks Your Heart." As if the title isn't enough of a giveaway, lines like "I'll write your name across the sky" and "Like the stars, we burn forever" should give those unfamiliar with the Dolls' mainstream tumble a brief history of Goo. Neither lyrical genius nor shortcoming is particularly prevalent. "If the world should spin you fast/I'll slow it down for you" and that sort pf thing are the guts of "Magnetic": to match the pop-rock softness, consistently tender lyrics with an almost constant theme of romance.
Overall Impression — 6
"Magnetic" should come as no surprise to anyone, nor should anything by the Dolls since the still-overplayed "Iris" struck FM tuners everywhere. While the band certainly deserves its ownership of the genre, it's more than a bit disappointing to see no movement whatsoever from where the Goo Goo Dolls' name was made. Perhaps too much is expected from a band more and more closely resembling a one hit wonder. Perhaps this is just what the Goo Goo Dolls is. Perhaps the mainstream appeal shouldn't surprise anyone. The band had songs in "Batman and Robin" and the third "Transformers" movie, after all.