It would be fair to say the new release, “Boxes,” isn’t just another album for the Goo Goo Dolls, who will perform Oct. 26 at the Revolution Center in Boise. And the two years that preceded the album’s release saw big changes, especially for singer/guitarist John Rzeznik.
With “Boxes,” Rzeznik and his bandmate, bassist Robby Takac, have become a duo following the departure of longtime drummer Mike Malinin. And they’ve arguably introduced more new musical elements on “Boxes” than on any Goo Goo Dolls album since 1995’s “A Boy Named Goo.” That album gave the group its first major hit single, “Name,” and signaled a shift away from the scrappy punk sound of its earlier albums toward a poppier, more accessible sound that has helped make the Goo Goo Dolls a fixture on mainstream radio for the past two decades.
For Rzeznik, changes on a personal level have been even more seismic. He has gotten married and turned his life around by getting sober and staying that way for the past two years. It’s had a big impact.
“Well, I’m not a miserable (jerk) to everyone anymore. That’s a good thing,” Rzeznik said in a recent phone interview.
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“I wake up in the morning and actually feel hope in my heart and I look forward to getting through my day, which was not the case. It’s like, you know, it was like I was wearing my father’s clothes, like hand-me-downs. My father was a brutal alcoholic, just crazy. I thought that was my destiny as well. You know, I finally got slapped in the head hard enough to go get help.
“The best part about it is seeing my friendships heal up a little at a time,” he said. “Just to get a phone call from Robby out of nowhere, for no reason, just to say hello, like the first time that happened, it made me cry because I was like ‘Wow, I think this is starting to heal up.’ ”
Rzeznik’s new sober perspective certainly had an effect on the Goo Goo Dolls’ music. Lyrically, “Boxes” has several songs (“Reverse,” “Flood” and “Boxes”) that relate to the changes in his life. Perhaps more fundamentally, Rzeznik went into the album eager to change up his songwriting approach and, as he put it, “throw out the rule book” on what a Goo Goo Dolls song should sound like.
He looked to outside tunesmiths — most notably Greg Watteneberg, Derek Fuhrmann (who is Wattenberg’s production partner) and Drew Pearson — to help him freshen up the songwriting process. They brought an open-minded approach to working together and Rzeznik said he was pushed by his writing partners.
“I insisted that we start from zero,” he said. “We’d just walk into a room. We don’t know what the hell we’re going to do. Let’s just do it. One day we wanted to play with synthesizers. The next day we wanted to play with a beat box. The next day we just wanted to play acoustic guitars. It was that loose.”
The music that emerged on “Boxes” still sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls of recent vintage, with plenty of midtempo pop tunes that have graceful melodies. But there are plenty of stylistic and production touches injected into songs that bring the songs more in line with today’s glossy top 40 pop sound, such as vocal effects in “Reverse” and the way the first single, “So Alive,” uses those two words as a big sing-along refrain. A couple of songs (the string-accented poppy anthem “Flood” and the expansive “The Pin”), meanwhile, feel more adventurous and stretch the signature Goo Goo Dolls sound fans know from hit singles such as “Iris,” “Slide, “Black Balloon” and “Better Days.”
Rzeznik doesn’t deny that today’s pop trends figured into the production on “Boxes.”
“I mean, like the guys we hired to produce and the guy we hired to mix the album, Mark Endert, they’re very, very like, they’re all over that world. And it’s like ‘Cool,’” Rzeznik said. “If I didn’t like it, I wasn’t going to do it. Believe me, man, there were a lot of things where I was like ‘Uh-uh, that ain’t happening.’ But you know, we just wanted to have an open mind. We wanted to do what’s best for the band, and it felt like growth, so why not?”
The Goo Goo Dolls figure to play a few new songs on its fall headlining tour. But the hits won’t be neglected, Rzeznik said.
“It’s really pretty amazing when somebody says to you, ‘Look, there are like 12 songs that you have to play in the set,’” he said. “And that’s great and I love doing that. I love that. I get kind of ticked off when artists won’t play their hits.”
Goo Goo Dolls
8 p.m. Oct. 26, Revolution Center, 4983 Glenwood St., Garden City. $35 general, $65 VIP. Ticketfly. Opening: Safety Suit.