The Goo Goo Dolls followed up the ragged glories of Jed & Hold Me Up with the too-slick-by-half Superstar Car Wash, which featured a few great songs (especially “Girl Right Next To Me” & “String of Lies”), but lacked the sense of bratty humor that suffused the early records.
Gone were the fun covers that had been sung by a local lounge singer named Lance Diamond (including the suddenly sadly relevant “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”), and in their place, a disappointing collaboration with Paul Westerberg.
Then in 1995, they dropped A Boy Named Goo, their attempt to replicate the pop-punk success that Green Day had with Dookie, and it totally stiffed.
Well, at first. I remember seeing them at Slims in San Francisco shortly after it came out, and I couldn’t for life of me figure out why Green Day had hit it big and these guys couldn’t.
Then “Name” came out, and somehow went to #5, opening the door to a string of huge singles and closing their door from their punk roots once and for all.
And while I liked “Name” as an album cut for six months before it became a huge hit single, I still think that if they were going to break through, it should have been with “Flat Top,” which is as good as punk-pop gets.
Starting off with a slow, anthemic riff, “Flat Top” suddenly takes off into the usual punk speed and featured Johnny Rzeznik’s actually perceptive lyrics about the mid-1990s media landscape, even referencing St. Joe Strummer at one point:
And conscience keeps us quiet while the crooked love to speak
There’s knowledge wrapped in blankets on the street
A visionary coward says that anger can be power
As long as there’s a victim on TV
Then it pulls up short, and with soon-to-be-sacked drummer George Tutuska emphasizing the end of each couplet with a “whack” of his snare, Rzeznik sings a chorus that’s never left my head:
And it’s fallin’ all around us
Is this some kind of joke they’re trying to pull on us?
Fallin’ all around us
I’ll turn my head off for a while
With the guitars crunching and jangling all around him, and the tempo speeding up and slowing down, “Flat Top” hammers its point home with a pair of long guitar solos in its second half. The first one replicates the melody line of the chorus, before speeding off into the stratosphere, and the second one just floats away into the fade at the end.
That said, I disliked “Iris” so much that I didn’t even bother with 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl, or any of the subsequent releases.
My gut was that once they tasted the sweet nectar of the mainstream, the things I loved about their early 1990s music were pretty much gone forever.
Official Video for “Flat Top”
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