The driving rock of the Goo Goo Dolls is fairly distinctive, thanks to the strong, raspy voice of singer Johnny Rzeznik. But it's the stark, soul-baring lyrics Rzeznik writes that keeps the trio from Buffalo, N.Y., on the charts.
So when Rzeznik described the band's new album, "Something for the Rest of Us," as "really sort of emotional," what did he mean?
As it turns out, it's about the hard times we're currently living in.
The Goo Goo Dolls (from left, Johnny Rzeznik, Robby Takac and Mike Malinin) recently released their first album in four years.
"(The album is) more kind of a commentary on what's going on emotionally with people," Rzeznik explained in a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Minneaplois.
"We're living in a world with economic hard times and two wars - just all the stress that we're going through. It just seems like people are really longing for something, a deeper (connection)."
The Goo Goo Dolls will try to make that connection with local audiences when they play a concert at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park.
If you go
Who: Goo Goo Dolls, with The Spill Canvas
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State University Park campus
Tickets: $34.75 and $39.75
Rzeznik, now 44, and friend Robby Takac started Goo Goo Dolls with mutual friend George Tutuska in 1986 in Buffalo. After toiling through several years of tiny gigs, small label records and gaining a cult following on college radio, the band broke through in 1995 with the No. 1 hit "Name."
Tutuska left the group just before "Name" hit it big and was replaced by drummer Mike Malinin. Goo Goo Dolls looked like a one-hit wonder for a few years, until 1998, when their single "Iris" became the biggest song of the year, garnering multiple Grammy nominations and netting Rzeznik several songwriting awards. Since then, the Goo Goo Dolls have rarely been absent from the charts, selling more than nine million albums and 15 songs in the Top 10 of Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart.
"Something for the Rest of Us" has already added to their success, with its first single, "Home."
"It's just kind of a common theme, really," Rzeznik says. "We're always traveling, we're always gone - it's just sort of a call to be 'home,' wherever that is."
War, economic strife, loneliness - not exactly happy subjects. But writing about somber current events isn't as hard as you might think, Rzeznik said.
"It's not difficult to write about if you talk to enough people, and you read the papers and look online at what's going on," he said. "I have friends who have lost their homes and their jobs and they're just stressed to the point of disintegrating. And it just started coming out on the page."
One of the albums most moving songs - which will be the band's next single - is "Notbroken." The song is in response to a note a fan passed to him one day, a note in which she wrote about how her husband was a soldier who was crippled in Iraq and doesn't want to come home because he's afraid of how he'll be viewed by his loved ones.
Rzeznik says many fans pass him such notes about their personal lives, but that this one stayed with him. "Notbroken" was his attempt to reassure veterans that they'll still be loved when they return.
"For some reason, the thought of meeting this person came back to me and I thought, 'Wow, that's the real cost of war,'" he said. "No matter what side of the fence you're on, the people who are trying to do the right thing, they wind up getting killed or having their lives changed forever."
The song is one of several from the new album that has gained a following, although "Something for the Rest of Us" was only released on Aug. 28. That's thanks to a kind of viral marketing that the band attempted during their current tour.
"We've been out on tour since April and the album didn't come out until August," Rzeznik explained. "We told people when we were playing, 'Hey break out your phone, take a video, put this on YouTube.' And it really drove the record company crazy, which was great. But within a week or two, people were singing along."
A large singalong is what Eisenhower Auditorium officials are hoping for. So far, ticket sales have been brisk, says Laura Sullivan, marketing director at Eisenhower.
"It's unusual for us to have a concert of that style here at Eisenhower, so we're getting people over the hurdle that it's not at the Bryce Jordan Center," she explained. "I think they're pleasantly surprised to find out that it's at Eisenhower and it's a much smaller venue."
The cozy confines of the auditorium - which seats just 2,500 people - are exactly what the band was looking for during this tour.
"Their whole tour is at performing arts centers and smaller venues," Sullivan said.
But they'll soon be back to arenas and stadiums, as the Goo Goo Dolls have proven themselves a true road warrior band. They toured behind their last album, "Let Love In," for more than two years.
On tap after this U.S. tour is done are trips to England, Europe and Japan, then short jaunts around the U.S. - and then, unfortunately for the group, a trip north.
"We're doing a tour of Canada in the winter, because our booking agent hates us," Rzeznik said with a laugh.
Judging by Goo Goo Dolls' success in the past two decades, he might be the only one.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.