It’s a pastel-colored stocking filled with aural joy—or a surprise EP. You decide when you hear the Goo Goo Dolls’ latest, EP 21, which arrived on April 16, 2021 thanks to Warner Records.
Preceding the release of their new rarities collection, which is slated to drop on June 25th, the Guys of Goo—that’d be Vocalist/Guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and Bassist/Vocalist Robby Takac—opted to whet their fans’ palates with a four-song acoustic collection. Revisiting several fan favorites, the Grammy-nominated Alt/Pop Rockers take listeners on a nostalgic, soothing stroll that is the equivalent of two weeks (paid) vacation.
Produced by Rzeznik, and created during the pandemic, the EP centers itself around never-before-heard, minimalist reinterpretations of four fan-favorite tracks that span the band’s extensive catalogue. Of course, when you’ve been making music since the late ‘80s, you have a little bit of material to choose from. With over 12-million albums sold worldwide and 19 hit singles, narrowing the field is no easy task—especially when your oeuvre is chock full of the blockbuster likes of 1995’s “Name,” 1998’s “Iris,” “Slide,” and “Black Balloon,” 2006’s “Give a Little Bit,” and much, much more.
But these brothers-in-music pass over the predictable, instead curating an EP that finds its inspiration in 2006’s Let Love In, 2010’s Something for the Rest of Us, and 2013’s Magnetic. And it all kicks off with “As I Am,” whose guitar initially provides a subtle reminiscence of Nirvana’s “Something In the Way.” (Or maybe that’s just us!) Either way, its familiar caress is strengthened through the acoustic format in the same way that a chance encounter with an old friend can brighten a gray day.
Then the pair of musicians continues to lead us through the darkness with “Feel the Silence.” Trailing sonic fingertips across the nape of your neck, the reimaging swims in its own intimate songwriting, all as John drops into his lower vocal register. This sets the stage for “Happiest of Days,” which, appropriately, is helmed by the jovial Takac. Now a piano and vocal ballad, it allows the Goo Goo Dolls to once again reflect on the fact that happiness can still involve struggle. A flawless segue, it bridges the gap into “Bulletproofangel,” a show-stopper built for enticing ears over the radio waves.
At this point in their impressive career, one could say that Goo Goo Dolls know their audience well, but nothing ever feels contrived. Foregoing the marketing campaign to focus on whole-hearted integrity and honest songwriting, they consistently deliver the warmth of old friends, wool socks, and hot cocoa (with marshmallows). It’s possible that one day they’ll miss the mark, but for now EP 21 is yet another treasure from the exceptional duo, even if it is only four acoustic reimaginings. Happy to spend any time with this genuine band, Cryptic Rock gives Goo Goo Dolls’ EP 21 5 of 5 stars.