Tinted Windows was an American “supergroup” formed by guitarist James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), bassist Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and drummer Bun E Carlos (Cheap Trick). They released a self-titled disc in 2009 on S-Curve Records, and it was eleven slices of awesome power pop goodness, with big Weezer-esque riffs and even bigger hooks, rooted firmly in ’70s power pop but filtered through modern alternative rock! Most of the songs were written by Schlesinger because, well, he’s a great songwriter. I mean we all know “Stacey’s Mom” has got it goin’ on, right? And, he was even nominated for an Academy Award for writing “That Thing You Do!” for the Tom Hanks film of the same name.
That Thing You Do! (1996), by the way, is a pretty good movie. The nostalgic ’60s music, all original, was very authentic, and well done, especially the surf instrumental “Voyage Around the Moon” (co-written by Tom Hanks!) performed by fictional band The Saturn 5 who were supposed to be like The Ventures. Anyway …
Tinted Windows was a pretty cool band, but, here’s the thing …
The singer of Tinted Windows was Taylor Hanson. Yeah, that Taylor Hanson, of the band Hanson, whose one hit “MMMBop” pierced my eardrums back in 1997 when Taylor was a mere 14 years old! He’s 30 now, and, he still sounds like he’s 14, but, whatever – it works in Tinted Windows.
The album’s best track is “Dead Serious”, which should’ve been a hit single. I love the tuneful verses which Taylor sings in a jumpy soft whisper, lovingly. But, in the chorus, he pleads, “No, I’m serious / Yeah baby, dead serious / And you’ve got to take me at my word / Forget what you heard …,” and, it sounds personal, like it’s directed, not at a girl, but, at music fans and critics. And, he stresses his message so eloquently with: “So hey hey hey / Hey hey hey / Hey hey hey now / Hey hey hey.”
Watch Tinted Windows perform “Dead Serious” live at SXSW 2009 here:
“Messing With My Head” is another great track that also should’ve been a hit single. But, again, when Taylor sings, “Well, you’ve been messing with my head / And it’s oh so wrong now / I can’t take it no more,” it sounds personal. The James Iha-penned ballad “Back With You” is excellent, too, as are “Take Me Back”, “Kind of a Girl”, and the Taylor Hanson-penned “Nothing To Me”. Oh, and “Can’t Get A Read On You” sounds so familiar – “I Need To Know” what song it sounds like, but, I can’t think of it! Such a Petty!
Now, despite becoming a pop joke, Hanson, the band, continued to release shitty music, post “MMMBop” (which would, in turn, inspire the Jonas Bros to release shitty music 10 years later). But, here’s the thing …
Eventually, Hanson grew up and started releasing music that wasn’t as shitty. In fact, some of it’s pretty damn good pop/rock! I’m not ashamed (much). And, so, I think that they don’t deserve (all of) the ridicule they have endured since then, up to this very day. But, the pop/rock music world is unforgiving and so they will always be remembered for “MMMBop”! And, that’s too bad, because they are, at the very least, undeniably talented. Well, Taylor Hanson is, for sure.
Hanson‘s best grown-up work can be found on 2004’s Underneath, the first release on their own independent label 3CG Records. I don’t care what you think, that disc is fantastic, if you like this kind of pop/rock (and, I do, sometimes)! “Penny & Me”, an excellent song, was a minor hit, but the Greg Wells-penned “Strong Enough To Break” should have been strong enough to break them away from the collateral damage of “MMMBop”, but, sadly, it didn’t. And, in addition to songwriter Greg Wells, some other very talented recording artists contributed songs to that overlooked album.
Gregg Alexander (ex-New Radicals, and friend to amazing former-child-star-turned-singer-that-no-listens-to-but-me Danielle Brisebois) gave them the bouncy “Lost Without Each Other”, which is laced with Alexander‘s distinctive blue-eyed soul. And, power popper Matthew Sweet [one of my all-time favorite artists!] gave them the heartfelt “Underneath” and “I Almost Care”. In the latter, Taylor sings: “Don’t give up when you’re so close / I almost care.” I love that! But, elsewhere, “Love Somebody to Know” is cool, as well as the piano ballad “Broken Angel” (which is sung by the youngest brother who sounds exactly like Taylor) and the soulful rocker “Deeper” (which is sung by the oldest brother who sounds nothing like Taylor).
So, there, I said it. I don’t think Hanson, the band, sucks as much as most people think they do. But, I think Tinted Windows is much better. So, watch the video for “Messing With My Head” here: