100 Days Project

Michael: Saving the languishing lyrical gems of modern pop

My aim is to trawl through my memory, my "record collection" and quotation references to unearth great pop poetry, drop it in, shine it up, make a comment or two as to its origin and personal impact. Enlighten? Hmm. Entertain, amuse, I hope. 100 times.

Day 80:

I Was Not the Answer

Goo Goo Dolls. Terrible name. Very good band, especially once they grew up and shook off all these Replacements comparisons and found their groove. Niche, vibe, whatever. And, let’s face it, singer John Rzeznik’s remarkable transformation from slightly pudgy greaseball to hot rocking mofo was almost as swift and significant as that of Anthony Wiggle. Between “A Boy Named Goo” in ’95 and “Dizzy Up the Girl” in ’98 they got their mojo on. Oh yes, “Iris” propelled them to mega status, but that is only one piece in what is a more intriguing puzzle than what it may first appear to be.

What I like about Rzeznik’s lyrics is that he phrases typical rock emotions – love, loss, cheating, sadness – in odd ways. He’s got similar syntax issues to Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, and it’s kinda hard to explain. We’ll get to Thomas before our 100 days are done, but a great Goo Goo example is “Here is Gone” off “Gutterflower”, itself a cracking album title, frankly; the album a great example of powerpop-with-tears, or somesuch.

“Here is Gone”. Not, “there’s nothing left” or “there’s nothing here”. The words sometimes seem the wrong way around, the last idea first, the description after the subject, like

“We wake up in the breakdown with the things we never thought we could be…”

Here’s the rest of the start which seems to share the sentiment of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, you know, cocky swagger, I can take it or leave it…

“You and I got something
But it's all and then it's nothing to me, yeah
And I got my defences
When it comes to your intentions for me, yeah

And we wake up in the breakdown
With the things we never thought we could be, yeah”

The bridge is what a bridge should be: a build of anticipation, a move toward a chord that begs to be resolved. The nonchalance gives way to frustration, so by the time he hits the middle line, the post-grunge, early millennial apathy has given way to a decent frustration: it’s the pivot of the whole song. “What do you got to move you darling?” It’s the emotional peak, and he hits it a few times, each one resonating a little more than the last:

“I'm not the one who broke you
I'm not the one you should fear
What do you got to move you darling?
I thought I lost you somewhere
But you were never really ever there at all…”

The chorus follows a descending chord progression that echoes the slide into despondency.

“And I want to get free
Talk to me
I can feel you falling
And I wanted to be
All you need
Somehow here is gone”

The following verse and bridge share that lumpen strangeness

“I have no solution
To the sound of this pollution in me, yeah
And I was not the answer
So forget you ever thought it was me, yeah
And I don’t need the fallout
Of all the past that's in between us
And I'm not holding on
And all your lies weren't enough to keep me here…”

Check the vid, it’s got a bunch of early 2000s teens going nuts on an abandoned housing estate. And Rzeznik looks, without question, like the coolest thing that ever came out of, um, Buffalo, NYC.