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Goo Goo Dolls

It's difficult to say that the Goo Goo Dolls have done anything "cool" since they abandoned their brash, sloppy, early-Replacements roots. But the fact that their first compilation — 2001's What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce — didn't include their biggest hits and instead focused on album cuts from the group's first decade of existence was, well, sort of cool, if only because it meant the band hadn't totally forgotten its past. The possession of the Dolls' first two albums has always been somewhat shameful for those who got to know the Buffalo-based group in its early days; those discs' raw power is as undeniable as it is incompatible with the soppy balladry that's come to make "Goo Goo Dolls" shorthand for "middle of the road." But, there it is: The band that recorded "Don't Beat My Ass With a Baseball Bat" can now proudly proclaim to be the artists with the most Top 10 hits on Hot Adult Contemporary radio, which is cognitive dissonance at its finest. Twelve of those hits are on this 14-track collection. Though most everyone who's been in a dentist's chair since 1998 can probably sing more than half of these songs from memory, there's something patently reassuring about hearing "Iris" and "Name" taken completely out of their album context and put onto a CD for people who don't buy CDs. There's no reference here to the band's early work, and thus there are no uncomfortable thoughts of what could have been. Taken in tandem with Johnny Reznik's role as Paula Abdul on The Next Great American Band, this compilation makes it clear that these guys have always been a little bit cheesy, but, more important, they've also been astoundingly effective hit-makers.

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Jason Ferguson

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