Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goo Goo Dolls: Greatest Hits, Volume II

(prepare for a Wall of Text.)

So, back in July, or whenever, I pre-ordered Goo Goo Dolls: Greatest Hits, Volume II. That's the official name of the latest compilation Goo has done, under the guiding hand, I'm sure, of WBR, but it will be referred to as Vol II, by me at least. (Some Goobers vacillate on this, but I think I'm pretty consistent.)

I pre-ordered it, because by doing so you were guaranteed a deluxe edition/special edition of the album. This version was the normal/regular/standard version -a CD containing 22 songs, such as overlooked album tracks and covers spanning their career and a DVD with 17 of their music videos and five cuts from a concert- which is now available in stores (not sure what the MSRP is on it...), with the additional ENTIRETY of their sold-out 2007 Red Rocks performance, shot in super-pretty High-Def, originally aired on the HDNet channel, as a music special, whereas the regular version only had five cuts from that show.

In addition, you also received a small, (idk...) 4'' by 4'' lithograph of the cover-art. Along with this came the possibility, I assumed in a lottery-like fashion (though I may be wrong), of having it signed by the band.

So, basically, you're paying more for the complete concert, and a possibly-signed lithograph. Being the Goober that I am, I jumped at the chance. I received mine the day before it came out in stores, and yes, my Litho is signed, as is a number of Goobers'. For the record, these were hand-signed, since Goo is very dedicated and only re-produce-sign some CDs. (Any Goober reading this can think back to the autographed GF cds on sale during THAT major tour - the one with Vanessa Carlton and Third Eye Blind opening.)

And now, as I promised two-or-three particular Goobers, here's my review. (Yeah, I'm gonna semi-copy what Steph did... Meh, she beat me to it! LOL)

Before I start, let me say that this WHOLE collection, I believe in my heart of hearts, was NOT the idea of the Dolls. I think this WHOLE thing was masterminded, primarily at least, by WBR. No, I don't have any real evidence to back up this Goo theory, save for a time when Rzeznik practically admitted in an interview that it's the idea of the record label to release a Greatest Hits with a part-two containing rarities, later. Something along those lines. This makes complete sense to me, since I, personally, often associate Greatest Hits packages/releases with the Swan Songs of bands. It's posing a curtain call; in this case, far too early, in my opinion, because Goo is at work on new material, right now, as I type, and who knows? Perhaps their best/greatest is still yet to come.

Then again, the music industry is, indeed, an industry, and the purpose is profit. Capitol records did the same thing to my #2 band, Everclear: rushed out a Best Of collection once EC cut ties with them, and eventually themselves (only to return, later, reconfigured). And, although I've always seen EC as cousins, or as Elseworld versions of the Dolls, that West-Coast band is a topic for another rant.

Regardless, Vol I was always knowingly going to be a simple collection of the hits. No one had any reservations against that. It was not advertised or hinted at being anything more. So, when it came out back in November of 07, Goobers were fine with it. It was soon after that talk began of what Vol II WOULD BE.

And, thus, here's the first rub. To an extent, the fans and possibly the band were mislead/given false hope/possibly even entirely misinformed about what Vol II would be. From day one this set was blown out of proportion, raised from the balconies of a mere CD/DVD set to the lofty precipices of a box-set. From the mouths of WBR, the Goo Camp, various fan boards, fan clubs, normal fans, and even Rzeznik and Takac came the following itemization: ALL videos, some with commentary, the entire Red Rocks concert, possibly with commentary just as LiB had commentary, all or nearly all covers, including new covers, rare archived footage from public access television, original songs posed as B-Sides from soundtracks, vintage concert footage, demos of songs, remixes, instrumentals, and/or possibly even a few new songs. In one way or another, that is what Goobers began to believe Vol II would be.

After surviving a fake tracklist, Goobers became aware of what Vol II *is* and, possibly, had always been in the minds of those involved. What is it? It is a cross between LiB (though not nearly as epic, despite whatever the commercial for Vol II says) and an overlooked-album-tracks collection they released back in 2000 called What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art, and Commerce (EOAC), originally geared toward international fans. Vol II, as much as I love it, and I do, despite however the tone of this may seem, is a simple CD/DVD set that is awarding *enough*... Then again, it had one hell of a reputation preceding it, for nearly nine anticipatory months.

I won't go track by track like Steph did, because I don't really see the point (although she's damn good at it), since, *really* the CD, despite Iris-demo and We'll Be Here When You're Gone-remix, is a collection I could have made on my own, which means that the hardcore Goobers bothering to read this, could probably have made it themselves, too. That said, I'll just be hitting on what I feel to be the major peaks and valleys of the cd.

First off, I've got to commend the packaging and art work. The teal/olive scheme of this edition is gorgeous. Wendy's photography skills shine inside the insert, and the art direction is different and edgy, with a vague throw-back feel, while still seeming perfectly Gooey with the familiar presence of circles on the actual discs. It all works well with the concept of this compilation. I was, however, a little jarred by there being NO thank-yous. I scoured, expecting Melina, Miyoko, and Krista to pop up, amongst others... Or, hell, even random reminiscences concerning Laurie or Tammy, which is near-impossible, or even George, but... There was nothing. I was really surprised. Of course, it's not a big deal. It doesn't matter. I'm not bitching that there's no thank-yous, just pointing it out, because I thought they'd be there.

The biggest flaw, despite sheer song-selection, which is a complete matter of personal choice, so I won't even *go there*, the CD has is its sequencing. The similar compilation, EOAC, had a simple sequencing idea: drifting back in time. It started with the most recent works, at the time being from DUTG, and worked its way back to a track from their first album. In theory, it worked, and, you know what, it worked in execution as well.
It's not what they did, at all, with Vol II. Now, I'm not saying they should have copied EOAC, because then some Goobers could complain about *that*. I'm just saying, it might have worked better, all around, if they had gone in that direction, or in the other direction (a la earliest to latest). Instead, the album, as awesome as it is, comes off a bit jumbled, or seemingly-poorly planned, sequencing wise, of course. We start in 1998, jump back to 1993, then to 1995, then to a live 2007 recording of a '98 song, back to '97, a torn apart demo of a '98 song, way back to '91 or '92 and here we stay for a few songs... In the older eras. Well, we jump back to '87, then to '89, back to '93, an '08 remix of an '06 song, '06, '95, and then a double stop in '02. (And, on a personal note, that dead-end almost breaks my heart, because it is either a tribute to GF by giving the last two tracks of this section to that album, or it's a last-minute 'Oh, shit, we forgot about GF' instance. I refuse to think the latter.)
And, that is just the first 15 songs: the EOAC-ish overlooked-album-tracks. (The covers are a bit more in the same range, mid-90s, minus the ending '01 performance of American Girl.)
But, one can guess, without even knowing the song-titles, how odd it must sound. And, I'll be honest, it sort-of flows, but sort-of doesn't all at the same time. I don't know if Goo were trying to do this back and forth (hell... I'll just call it...) attempt at Time Compression to prove the sell-out-accusers wrong by trying to show that: 'HEY! Listen to all of it, all at once, in one sitting, and you'll hear that the melodic nature, the familiar chords and tunings, and the vague accessible lyrics have, really, always been there, in varying degrees' *or* if it was, truly, just poor planning. I don't know. I don't pretend to know, but... I will believe the former, since according to interviews, the Dolls are very hands-on with the sequencing of their albums, like EOAC for instance.

I adore all the special tracks, except American Girl, but that's just because I've never been the biggest American Girl fan. And that applies to Petty's original, Goo, and EC, who has also covered it for years, before Goo did. Of course, I'm not saying I hate it! That's not the case at all. I'm just a little tired of it.
Iris-demo is amazing, if for anything else, the ability to show how a song can grow and change and become finished and polished. Some Goobers don't like the demo and only see the merit of it as what I've just described: they don't *like* it as a stand-alone song. I do. I really do. Now, do I think that it, finished as it had been, in this demo-state, released like that and just merely finalized... Do I think it would have been the stellar hit as the Iris we all know was? No. I think it would have gotten some airplay, in the vein of Jewel's Foolish Games or Counting Crows' Colorblind. It's *that* sort of somber and under-hyped, yet still touched by a studio.
WBHWYG-remix made my jaw drop. I haven't had this happen, to this *degree*, by any of Rzeznik's songs since - you guessed it - Black Balloon (both the album and LIA versions, of course). Yeah, that's right, I went there. I just sort-of compared WBHWYG-remix to BB. I ain't taking it back. But, here's the catch: Goobers seemed really torn over it. Simply: you'll love it, or you'll hate it. There's in-betweens with the Iris-demo, but with this one?... Oh, it's so polar.
And, if you like it, you'll like the live All Eyes On Me, which is just imported over, in audio form, from the RR concert. Hell, if you don't like WBHWYG-remix, you might still like AEOM-live.

Besides petty personal preferences, I don't have anything else to say-


Takac has, including the covers, four songs, not including a Rzezkac. That's out of 22. He had six on EOAC. But, you know, whatever. I expect this; it's just how things are, and any Goober worth their salt, after searching their heart of hearts and swimming up the Denial river, will know this to be true.

The Red Rocks show I had seen before, shared (yes, I know, shush.) and viewed on my Lappy. Truth be told, it was much more overwhelming on the small screen. On a real TV, the glaring offenses show.
For one: I can, with a clear conscience, put aside favoritism and say that Takac's three songs/performances entertained me far more than Rzeznik's six-teen. And this comes from a show with a clearly-Rzeznik-centered audience, sold-out show or not. Rzeznik phoned-in the performance, more or less. He played it well, but he played it *safe*, and after being accustomed to balls-out shows like LIB and numerous times I've seen them myself... This was underwhelming, but still a good show. But, perhaps, it's wrong of me to compare...?

As far as the music videos are concerned, I nearly cried when I watched them all, so proud of how far they've come. (Sorry, MB20, I had to borrow that line.)

Casual fans need to buy this to see at least some representation of Goo that's been lost, the Goo that's tucked away in albums hard-to-find, or out of print, and long-time/hardcore fans need to add this to their collection in order to reminisce and remember why they love this band.

And, that's the end of this wall of text. If you read it: God. Bless. You.

it's not always about a boy and a girl.