Tinted Windows

Tinted Windows

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Supergroups are rarely as evenly balanced as Tinted Windows, the power pop powerhouse consisting of boy band veteran Taylor Hanson, Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Hanson's participation in this project is unexpected only to those not paying close attention. Ever since the days of "MMM Bop," Hanson has shown a flair for sugary pure pop, something he continued to develop as he and his brothers turned from teen sensations into working troubadours, but their steady, solid work in the 2000s never got as much attention as their first hits, so many listeners may be surprised to hear how comfortable he is with this fuzzy, old-fashioned power pop. Then again, Hanson never quite seemed of their time even in 1997, basing their entire sound on the fizzy sound of '60s oldies, so the '70s fantasia of Tinted Windows is no great stretch for Taylor Hanson, just like it's no great stretch for Adam Schlesinger, who has carved out a niche as a pop anthropologist, re-creating the sounds of yesteryear for the soundtracks of That Thing You Do and Music and Lyrics; indeed, he initially met Taylor back in the '90s when Hanson's label suggested him as a possible collaborator based on this very skill. Schlesinger relies on this gift somewhat on Tinted Windows, but for as tradition-bound as this album is, it's not self-consciously retro: it's a balanced collaboration, its melodies bearing the indelible stamp of both Hanson and Schlesinger, while its music is colored by Iha's saturated '70s guitars and pinned down by Carlos' tight rhythms. Bun E's very presence suggests that Tinted Windows might have a bit of Cheap Trick's feverish rock & roll, but the group errs on the side of caution, the product of a bunch of longtime veterans getting back to basics and playing their first love. While the former cancels out the latter ever so slightly -- there's not much abandon here, only precision -- the pleasure of the popcraft outweighs much of the caution in the construction, especially when the insistent hooks are delivered with such puppy-dog earnestness by Taylor Hanson. Of all the guys here, he is the only one to never have performed in a guitar-heavy rock & roll band, and his thrill to be singing these sweet melodies over these big, fuzzy guitars can be infectious.

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