Hanson

This Time Around

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Give Hanson credit for making a second album (not counting live affairs, demo collections, and holiday records) that virtually ignores the teen-pop boom they kick-started in 1997 with their debut album, Middle of Nowhere. This Time Around doesn't ditch the musical principles laid out on Middle of Nowhere -- it expands them. Hanson winds up synthesizing its influences -- still primarily classic pop tunes from the late '60s and early '70s, staples of oldies radio -- into a bright, melodic sound of its own. Problem is, you can occasionally hear them working at it. Much of This Time Around feels like a conscious attempt at furthering their craft, defining their sound, and honing their songwriting skills. It's a stab at maturity. Not only are the performances measured and the production restrained, but the album features cameos by virtuosos like John Popper and Jonny Lang, just to prove that Hanson can hang with the big boys. They can, but so what? Jams and instrumental interludes are not the reason to listen to Hanson, records that sparkle with effervescent melodies and joyous hooks is. They haven't lost these gifts, even if the tempered production and overly earnest perf``ormances occasionally make the band's classicist instincts sound stuffy. There's something to be said for self-conscious maturity; by carefully watching over every aspect of the album's creation, Hanson and producer Stephen Lironi wind up with a record that is better paced and more consistent than the debut. It's hard not to miss the thrilling way Middle of Nowhere leapt out of the speakers upon its first spin with giddy fun, yet with its carefully considered craft and warmly ingratiating pop songs This Time Around is winning entertainment.

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