Kicking off with a ringing, driving guitar, the newly released single “Yeah, I Like You” revs up scrappy rock ‘n’ roll, skewering meaningless internet and social media celebrity culture with its big choruses and pop hooks.
“That song’s a lot of fun,” said singer/songwriter/goo John Rzeznik. “What I love about that song is it really is a satirical kind of commentary on fame in the year 2022. I’m sitting around going ‘Who are these people? What are they famous for?’ You used to have to do something to be famous...some of it is my age and some of it is the absurdity of social media. There’s a girl eating noodles. I eat noodles, why aren’t I famous? Everything is so weirdly random.”
Welcome to the Goo Goo Dolls in the second decade of the 21st century. They take the stage at the Zoo Amphitheatre Sept. 17.
“Yeah, I Like You” and the rest of Chaos in Bloom, the album the band released this August, was recorded last summer, when the band decamped to Woodstock, N.Y., living in a house with a studio on the property.
The long-running alt rock band’s 13th album, Chaos in Bloom marks the first time Rzeznik has produced one of the band’s albums. He aimed to bring together vintage and contemporary sounds – and to capture the Goo Goo Dolls at their best.
“I wanted the album to have more of a live feel to it,” Rzeznik said. “A couple songs, I used drum machines and synthesizers. That’s a different kind of process. For the rock songs, it was live. The live versions of the songs, to me, always came across better than the studio versions.
“We would do 30 takes of a song. It was interesting. We tried to mix a lot of old techniques with new stuff. We recorded to tape, tried to limit the number of tracks,” he said. “The power of a microphone up to a guitar amp, how do you do that? That just isn’t done today. I wanted it to sound like something that could have been made in the ‘70s, the ‘90s, or today.”
Rzeznik did all the production, up to a point. Then he brought in Gregg Wattenberg to help finish the record.
“I felt like I couldn’t take these songs any further,” he said. “I stepped up in front of the mic and I was going to produce my own vocals. Then I went ‘I don’t know how to do this.’”
Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac and the rest of the band were set to rehearse “Yeah, I Like You,” later on the day of this interview, getting the new song ready for its live debut.
“Once it’s out for a few days, people will learn it,” Rzeznik said. “We have such a large body of work behind us. You have to play a lot of those songs for people. I love doing that. I like entertaining people. I really do.”
That, of course, means the likes of “Iris,” “Name,” “Slide,” “Give a Little Bit” “Better Days” and “Broadway” will likely be heard on the band’s first full-fledged tour since 2019.
“I had to do three shows in a row the other day. I was, ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to get back in shape,’” he said. “It’s really hard to sing for two or three hours. Singing is more athletic than people think. It takes a lot of practice and rehearsing. I have to warm up my voice, do core exercise and sprints to get my wind back. Some people are absolute naturals.
“But I need to do all that stuff, to see my vocal coach, do the exercises,” Rzeznik said. “I can’t smoke cigarettes anymore. It’s like, ‘This is no fun.’ I can’t drink anymore. I can’t smoke any more. But I get to do something that’s really awesome.”
More songs from Chaos in Bloom will almost certainly make their way into the set as the tour continues – like the protest song “Let the Sun Come Back Again.”
“It’s unfair that there’s one man who has $200 billion and flies on a giant penis into space and one in five kids are food insecure, or that a kid’s got to graduate from college with $100,000 in debt or that someone can’t love who they love and have to be in fear,” Rzeznik said. “That’s so sad. We’re better than that.”
Then there are the pandemic songs, like “Going Crazy.” (“That was me lying in my bed going ‘What’s going on? I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t get out of here.’”) “Day After Day” is a tight pop song that’s anchored by the same three notes played over and over
“It’s all about the pandemic and the strife,” Rzeznik said. “I’m singing ‘It’s all the same day after day/The more you scream, the less you say.’’’
The songs on Chaos in Bloom are more observational than pointedly political. But they’re rooted in the two years of upheaval, beginning with the COVID-19 shutdown of March 2020.
“It came out of a really crazy time,” Rzeznik said. “I found myself in the middle of a pandemic and in the middle of a Black Lives Matter protest. You’re feeling the intensity of the people…We came out on the other side and we’ve definitely changed. I hope we can find more in common with each other.”
In fact, finding commonality happens during live shows, and it’s why Rzeznik wants to be out playing again this summer.
“That’s what I love about playing live,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your politics are, what you think about all the things that tear us apart, everybody in that room has something in common. They’re there to hear the band, whoever it is. They’re there for the music. The music is a small thing, but at least it’s something.”