The Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls front man Johnny Rzeznik is surely the prettiest face ever to have been signed to Metal Blade Records. Long before he was a pensive pinup with a wounded heart, a happening haircut and an acoustic guitar, Rzeznik and the Goos were belligerent, bottoms-up punk rockers signed to the same label as heavy metal hellions like Slayer, Armored Saint and Lizzy Borden.

Fifteen years later, wispy, hum-along hits like "Iris," "Name" and "Slide" have turned Rzeznik into MTV's most (recently divorced) eligible bachelor. Long graduated from Metal Blade and now a platinum-plated priority at Warner Bros., the Goo Goo Dolls are riding high on yet another breezy and ubiquitous single, "Here Is Gone," off their latest CD, Gutterflowers.

Like its multiplatinum predecessors, Dizzy Up the Girl and A Boy Named Goo, the new album has enough babe-baiting balladry to ensure Gutterflowers' sales come up smelling like roses. Diminished to near-extinction are the pissed-off rants of bassist Robby Takac and the corrosive covers ("Don't Fear the Reaper," "Sunshine of Your Love," "Down on the Corner," "Gimme Shelter" and Prince's "Never Take the Place of Your Man," to name a few) of discs gone by. The evolution comes as no surprise, however, considering the Goos got a grip on poppy melody as far back as 1993's garage-rock masterpiece Superstar Carwash.

For those of us who remember the Goos' 1987 debut, the must-have follow-up Jed and the equally slamming Hold Me Up -- all of which were issued before original drummer George Tutuska departed in a colossal case of bad timing -- defending the band's punk pedigree is an eternal battle. Fortunately, Rzeznik, Takac and arrived-just-in-time drummer Mike Malinin are still scrappy enough to pull off arena gigs with the fervor of a misplaced bar band.

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David Glessner