“Gutterflower” was to be the first album the Goo Goo Dolls released after the acclaimed “Dizzy Up The Girl”, the CD that gave us “Iris” and “Slide”. This time around the tone is much starker because John Rzeznik was going through a divorce, and broken sentiments surface at every turn. Leaving aside these songs about disillusionment and loyalty lost, there are two songs that describe the way he felt when moving from Buffalo to LA. They are the single “Big Machine” and “What A Scene”.
The other singles were to include “Here Is Gone”, the closest to the hit formula they had established in the previous record, and “Sympathy”. “Sympathy” is one of the few all-acoustic songs that they were to release as a single, and it is equally enticing on the album as it is when listened to on its own. The song treats disenchantment like the remaining tunes within the album, wondering in which measure the failure of a relationship is down to each person. The conclusion seems to be that both are equally to blame, yet they are incapable of admitting it. Nietzsche used to say that the one who loves the most is the most damaging person since he or she tends to request impossible thing from his/her loved one at every turn. And the majority of songs on offer here (“Think About Me”, “What Do You Want”, “Truth Is A Whisper”) do nothing but bring that to mind time and again.
On the other hand, Robby offers up 4 songs. They mostly reinforce the overall mood of the album (“You Never Know”), yet he also contributes the uplifting “Up, Up, Up” and “Smash”. But on the whole, the album feels like Johnny’s show. Robby songs are also shorter, and it is John the one who closes the album with “Truth Is A Whisper”.
As a conclusion, we could say that “Gutterflower” is an unexpected development of the formula that had worked so well the previous time around. It is unexpected if only because the sound remains but the content has changed drastically. Such a change is not deliberate, of course. It is the kind of change motivated by (to quote Dylan) a “simple twist of fate” – yet to the one affected by it, everything is but simple. “The truth is so complicated now”, John sings. These complications resulted in this album. And it is a solid one, if you ask me. Those of you who liked “Dizzy Up The Girl” are going to enjoy it. But I think you would like the one that came after this one (“Let Love In”) best.