Goo Goo Dolls

Dizzy Up the Girl

Warner Bros.

I think the best song is ‘Iris’ because it says a lot about stuff that I would like to hear from a guy!” notes a member of the Goo Goo Dolls’ natural constituency on a Web discussion of Dizzy Up the Girl. She’s got lots of companions. The Goos are the chief initial beneficiaries of Billboard‘s decision to include heavily radio-spun album tracks that aren’t actually singles on the Hot 100—as of the December 24 chart, they were occupying slots 17 (“Slide”) and 18 (“Iris,” which has been saturating airwaves since before Viagra was launched). This despite having no particular hooks, no particular attitude, no particular musical gift (other than a certain brittle solidity—playing together for 12 years will do that), no audible indication that they’ve bought an album since the Replacements’ All Shook Down. How can any one band be so bland?

But that’s the idea. The Goo Goo Dolls’ persona and songs are pretty and vacant enough that overheated youth can impose their own meanings on them. “You’re dirty and you’re sweet,” John Rzeznik sings in “Dizzy,” misquoting T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” and that’s a big clue: Marc Bolan made his career out of being beautiful and not making sense, too. For grammatically correct meaninglessness, your typical Rzeznik lyric is about one and a half sweet nothings to the right of “colorless green ideas sleep furiously”; you can try to explicate “Broadway is dark tonight / A little bit weaker than you used to be” or “And I’ll do anything you ever / Dreamed to be complete / Little pieces of the nothing that fall,” but all you’ll end up with is something you can convince yourself is special and personal.

Rzeznik’s got a handful of favorite aids toward universal nonspecificity: synesthesia (“I wanna feel you scream,” “all I can taste is this moment”), fake-casual diction (his lyrics have more wannas than the Donnas’, and enough dropped terminal gs to shame John Mellencamp), cod-Costello reversals (“forgotten but not gone,” “you’re angry when you’re beautiful”). Starting a big-ass ballad with “and” worked with “Name” a few years ago, so he does it again with “Iris” (second-banana songwriter Robby Takac does the same with “Full Forever”). Rzeznik’s voice has a sensitive little tremor at its low end, a vulnerable rasp for emphasis, and gallons of reverb when he goes for the dramatic high notes; his band is more reliable and nonthreatening than anybody’s teenage boyfriend. He needs you, and he’s singing about you, you know?