It's always tempting for musicians to overplay their strengths. The fast-fingered guitarist has to fight the urge to let every lick rip. The big-voiced diva must struggle to curb her desire to shout every phrase to the rooftops.
With the Goo Goo Dolls, it's a knack for uplifting choruses that provides their ironic downfall. On Gutterflower, the group's fourth major-label album, they treat rousing tunes the way an overeater approaches a 10-layer cake -- with no restraint whatsoever. And the result turns their talent into a tic.
Every riff and refrain penned by main men John Rzeznik and Robby Takac aims for anthemic resonance. But they lack the melodic range to differentiate the new tunes from each other, or even from songs they've been releasing for years. And the reliably inflated production of Rob Cavallo intensifies the problem by milking the formula of the band's biggest-selling album, 1998's ''Dizzy Up the Girl.''
Of course, when you take so many shots at spirited chords, some can't help but click. Suckers for power pop will enjoy ''Think About Me'' and ''Sympathy.'' And Rzeznik can pull off a nice line, like: ''Truth is a whisper...nobody hears above the noise.'' Yet even the best tracks still fall into the shadow of the band's original role models, the Replacements. Accept no substitutes.