Tinted Windows, Tinted Windows

Posted on February 1, 2010 by and

S Curve Records 8-07315-9-0012-0, 2009
Genre: Power Pop

SHE SAID (Athena Butterfield)

Litany:

A recording such as this could illicit unbridled delight or scrimy cynicism.  Who could have imagined these individuals appearing on a supergroup short list?  Taylor Hanson of Hanson, James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and, to make it even more delectable and viable, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick.  Theoretically this should be a much more interesting, if not an absolutely genius recording.  Not to suggest that the luminaries involved are anything but talented, with years of writing, recording and touring to their credit.  This recording is brilliantly performed by all, even though they sound like they were hired for a summertime movie soundtrack.

This is a rare and ultimately disappointing case where the sum is less than it’s parts. They lack chemistry, the magic and glue that makes a band better than it’s individual parts.  This feels a bit clinical, like a power pop experiment, but sadly, without the experimental element.  Though, these are seemingly perfect, by-the-book pop songs, they seem rote and formulaic, lacking anything like sincere urgency, tension, euphoria, or longing to make them truly perfect.  The lyrics are beyond cliche, if they were intended to be light and tongue in cheek, then that should be more apparent both in content and vocal delivery.  Many a fantastic power pop band have written songs about just such cliches, but infused them with wit or a perspective that makes them seem original, or at least compelling.  To get everyone involved to make time to record this had to have been a huge feat and to sell it short in such a way is a shame, all the more so given the merits of those involved.  Mr.  Hanson has a very pleasant voice, a perfect pop voice, actually.  And the discipline to sing like he means it, even when he can’t possibly.

This does seem like a bit of a vehicle providing Mr.  Hanson a chance to grow and shine as a singer/songwriter, which to his credit he does.  And add a little street cred to his reputation, but not too much, mind you.  It gives Mr. Iha and Mr. Schlesinger a rather nice paycheck, I should hope, as well as showcasing their song writing skills to create something of a concept album.  It gives Mr. Carlos an excuse to take his slippers off, put his pipe down and show the kids how it’s really done.   All good things.

This should be a fantastic power pop recording and oh, how I truly wish it was.  These songs are catchy beyond belief and well crafted and polished, with all manner of little artful asides and surprises to show that everyone had done their time or done their homework.  But, it’s not enough, as Mr.  Thunders once said.  Perhaps we are projecting our deepest desire for a world dominating power pop band we can finally rejoice over in this myspace 15 minutes of fame world, but we are projecting that desire on something transparent and thin.  Something like a Tinted Window.

Summary:

Kind Of A Girl – Redd Kross meets Rick Springfield high energy pop.  Did I mention Cheap Trick?

Messing With My Head – Yawn inspiring repetitive riffs.

Dead Serious – Superchunk opening, made me want to listen to Seed Toss and It’s So Hard to Fall in Love instead.

Can’t Get A Read On You – High energy, very catchy pop.  Did I mention Cheap Trick yet?

Back With You – Lovely guitar opening.  Good track.

Without Love – Did I mention Cheap Trick?

Cha Cha – Sham Glam Thank You Ma’am.  Back in The New Jersey Groove.  Kill me now lyrics.

We Got Something – More power pop.  Great chorus.

Nothing To Me – Will Badfinger and Big Star get royalties for this?   One of the better tracks.

Doncha Wanna – Half the opening guitar from Mazzy Star’s Blue Flower, Stone Roses thereafter.  Good track.

Take Me Back – Hold on Loosely by 38 Special.  Not pretty.  Sorry.

Grade: B-


HE SAID (DJ Father Time)

S Curve Records 8-07315-9-0012-0, 2009
Genre: Power Pop

Unabashedly power pop! There are no apologies here for the amount of sugar poured on these tracks. Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne has been a purveyor of power pop, but when listening to Fountains, you often wonder how deep the tongue goes into the cheek. Here, there is no joke, this is pure sucrose.

Along with bassist Schlesinger, Tinted Windows is guitarist James Iha, late of Smashing Pumpkins, drummer Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick and vocalist Taylor Hanson on “MMM Bop” fame. And I’ll admit, I may the only forty-something man in America that has the balls (or lack there of) to say I liked “MMM Bop.” To me, it was no different than singles by the 1910 Fruitgum Co. or the Ohio Express. Plus it was better than anything Ashley Simpson or the likes could muster. And it showed its roots. I applaud them for that.

I never looked beyond the single though and now here is Hanson huddled in a reputable group. In the crafty hands of Schlesinger, Hanson’s voice is well-suited to spill the sweetest pop. I can only imagine that Bun E. Carlos’ presence bolstered the band’s edge a bit. The Cheap Trick influence rings true.

Big guitar hooks, stuttered lyrics, pet names, hand claps and a contrived innocence add up to great bubble gum album. Don’t look for depth, studio trickery or raw emotion in this offering, just slide around in the silvery syrup.

Iha’s “Cha Cha” should have been a AM pop hit, but sadly, AM radio no longer exists. Schlesinger’s “Dead Serious” is a power ballad that could fail in any body else’s hands, riding so close to the 80’s hair metal bands that it is a guilty pleasure, but it works better than the other slower-tempo cut, “Back With You.” “Messing With My Head” displays some pop vocal gymnastics with Taylor Hanson hitting some high notes with a vibrato shrill that wiggles like cherry Jell-O.

The band saves the best for last with a trio of killers, starting with the Hanson written “Nothing To Me”, to “Doncha Wanna” and finishing with “Take Me Back.” Hanson co-wrote “Take Me Back” with Schlesinger, and I find the Hanson contributions to be the best tracks on the CD. “Nothing To Me” rings with a Beatlesque riff circa Yesterday and Today. “Doncha Wanna” sounds like an unreleased Cheap Trick single and “Take Me Back” is the most polished song on the record. Really, the record is all super glossy, but that’s what power pop should be. Music diabetics beware, this shit is super sweet and I like it that way.

Whether the quartet makes another record or not, Tinted Windows has shown me enough to be interested in a future Taylor Hanson project. One thing the project did succeed with was showcasing Hanson as a pop singer and gave us a glimpse into his song writing abilities. The rest of the band members have enough credibility to carry on with or without Tinted Windows as a vehicle.

Grade: B+

Grade: ,

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