Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Power Pop Flashback: Tinted Windows

What do you get when you combine Adam Schlesinger, bassist & songwriter for Fountains of Wayne, Taylor Hanson, lead singer & keyboardist for Hanson, James Iha, former guitarist for Smashing Pumpkins, and the one & only Bun E. Carlos, drummer for Cheap Trick? A little band called Tinted Windows. Their self–titled album, a rocking blast of power pop tunes, should have been a much bigger hit. Schlesinger & Hanson had already begun to write some music together when they brought in Iha, and later, Carlos to form the supergroup in 2009. The idea was to have some fun & make a guitar driven rock & roll record that has some great pop sounds as well.

The opening track, “Kind of a Girl” has propulsive guitars that would sound right at home on a Smashing Pumpkins record. In fact, there are hints of all four members own bands here: “Nothing to Me” could be a Cheap Trick outtake & the Iha penned ballad “Back With You” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hanson album. Songs like “Dead Serious” & “Doncha Wanna” have hook filled choruses that truly get stuck in your head, much like Schlesinger’s work with Fountains of Wayne. And try not to rock out & sing along with “Messing With My Head” & “Can’t Get A Read On You.”

The smooth production by Iha & Schlesinger gives the songs the perfect power pop sheen. Fans of 70s & 80s rock, pop & New Wave will think they’ve dug up a lost record from those eras. What’s interesting is that despite the presence of Hanson (who provides lead vocals), there are no keyboards on the disc; just Iha’s guitar, Schlesinger’s bass & Carlo’s drums & percussion. Everyone sounds great, and their enthusiasm comes through in the music. They clearly loved working on this project. From The Beatles to The Raspberries to The Cars, there's a virtual encyclopedia of power pop influences on display here. And while the lyrics here don't match the cleverness of Schlesinger's work with Fountains of Wayne, the songs concern the rock & roll basics; love, girls & cars. What more could you ask for on a straight ahead power pop/rock album?

The group was a side project for the artists, and resulted in a brief tour after the record’s release in 2009. Here's hoping they decide to work together again; Taylor Hanson has hinted in interviews that it's a possibility, though nothing has been officially announced. This record was almost criminally ignored by the public upon its release in 2009, and deserves a listen. If you’re a fan of any of the individual members or a power pop aficionado, I recommend checking out this underrated album. In fact, if you really like the disc, seek out a couple of tunes that didn’t make it onto the official release: “New Cassette,” which is an iTunes bonus track, and “The Dirt,” which is an extra song on the Japanese edition; both are fantastic songs in their own right. Here are links to "Kind Of A Girl," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjTSXcGhRoI, “Messing With My Head” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndwtfOHg2Kc and “The Dirt,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-Caw3muvRA.

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