Goo Goo Dolls
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Where: Hammerjacks, 1101 S. Howard St.
$ Call: (410) 659-7625 Timing, they say, is everything. And the Goo Goo Dolls, as bassist Robbie Takac cheerfully admits, is "one of those bands that came along right at the wrong time."
In their case, that time was 1986. What was wrong? "Well, the Chili Peppers thing hadn't started yet, and there really wasn't this mass acceptance for the louder, guitar-rock sort of bands," he explains over the phone from a tour stop in Dallas.
"So we were kind of tossed in these categories that we didn't necessarily belong in and were being paired with bands like D.R.I. and Gang Green. And we never really thought we fit into that whole thing."
True, the Goo Goo Dolls did enjoy playing fast and loud, but that hardly made them a thrash act. The band has always had more in common musically with alternative rockers like Husker Du or the Replacements than with any death metal act.
As Takac puts it, "We were all about sitting around with a couple of guitars and writing some songs, you know? As opposed to sitting around and going, 'Let's see -- what's the most evil chord combination we can come up with?' Or 'What's gonna tick off Mom the most?' "
Fortunately, the band is finally beginning to shed its thrash-band image, in large part thanks to a song called "We Are the Normal." With its strumming acoustic guitars and wistful cello introduction, the first half of the song handily showcases the Dolls' deft melodic sensibility, while the slam-bang second half leaves plenty of room for musical muscle-flexing. In short, it seems the perfect vehicle for showing off the band's depth and breadth.
Nonetheless, says Takac, "We didn't want 'Normal' to be the single for this album. We wanted it to be possibly the secondary, tertiary single, but definitely not the first single. And Warner Bros. sort of pushed it to be a single."
Some of the band's hesitancy has to do with the fact that "We Are the Normal" was co-written with Paul Westerberg (he wrote the words, they did the music). Because Westerberg is a well-known name in alternative rock circles, the Dolls figure Warner Bros. was to some degree trying to exploit his marquee value. Which, frankly, strikes Takac as kind of funny.
"Westerberg really wasn't a guy who sold records, you know what I mean?" he chuckles. "It was kind of weird -- they were trying to use a guy who didn't sell records to sell records.
"It's kind of weird with Warner Bros. too," he adds. "Because for years we've known what's best for us, you know? And now we're getting told what's best for us. So it was a conscious decision by us to say, 'We'll let you do what you want on this one, because you're the shoe salesmen. We just make the shoes.' And I think we made a damn nice pair of shoes."
Takac has no illusions about how the business works, and hardly expects that the merits of his band's music will be enough to make the Dolls into stars. "I may be jaded, I may be cynical -- or shall I say I probably am jaded and cynical?" he says, laughing. "We've been in every bad situation a band could be in, and I don't think that things happen too much on their own in this business anymore. Because there's much too much money to be made.
"But I think the important thing for me is that we put together a really coherent record, and that we achieved what we were trying to achieve with this one, which was not necessarily the case with the three prior. It's like that shoe salesman thing; We set out to make the best record that we could, and we always do our best at our live shows, and it's not like we would ever let that slide.
"Now it's just things that I don't have that much control over that bug me, really."