The following review appeared in the May 25 Erie Times Showcase:
"A Boy Named Goo" **1/2 stars out of 4
Like (Matthew) Sweet, Goo Goo Dolls semed ready to graduate a few years back, especially when the Minneapolis scene was the the forfront of college rock. With their buzzsaw energy, distorted guitars, punk ethos, and loud fast rules, bands like Husker Du, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum set the table for Seattle bands and alternative's breakthrough in the early 90's.
Thing is, Goo Goo Dolls are from Buffalo, not Minneapolis, so they never benefited from that scene. Meanwhile, the breakups of the Replacements and Husker Du signaled the end of that movement, and college rock moved on. Soul Asylum escaped, in part, by refining its sound to the point of selling out. Grave Dancers Union sounded nothing like the blistering Hang Time.
Paul Westerberg gave the Goo Goo Dolls his seal of approval by co-writing "We Are The Normal" for Superstar Carwash. But the album, as a whole, was a bit too polished and overproduced, as if they hoped to follow Soul Asylum's path to success.
A Boy Named Goo takes a step back to take two steps forward, and succeeds about half the time. Their untamed energy is back on the white-hot "Burning Up" and "Long Way Down". And while "Name" serves up an acoustic, hardstrummed folkiness, it's a well-written, pretty, uncalculated little gem.
An itchy, churning, propulsive undercurrent drives their best tunes, like "Only One", "Long Way Down", and "Ain't That Unusual", which is especially Mats-like. And Green Day fans may be interested in knowing that Rob Cavallo co-produced the disc's last two tracks - the punky "Disconnected" and the pogo-pop, tongue-in-cheek "Slave Girl".
No lyric sheet was included, but the vocals ring through and they reveal an aware, impassioned band. The Doc likes lines like "Life seems easy when it's from your easy chair," while the thoughtful rocker, "Flat Top", takes a sweeping look at a society going down the tubes. "It's falling all around us/Is this some kind of joke they're trying to pull on us?" they sing.
So what's not to like? Goo Goo Dolls seem like they're in a rut. They come off too often as second-rate Replacements or Soul Asylum. And, just as the Mats mellowed toward the end, Goo Goo Dolls also seem to have lost some spark and personality along the way.
Still no breakthrough here. Nice CD cover though.
(Side Note: Dr. Rock never forgave the Dolls for covering "Never Take the Place of Your Man". His reasoning is that they knew all of the Minneapolis bands comparisons of them, so they covered Prince as a joke on their critics.)