Tinted Windows assembles Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Fountains Of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger and Hanson vocalist Taylor Hanson. Given the musical backgrounds of all involved, it's no surprise this project proudly flies the flag of power pop at its most polished.
Carlos, of course, is the backbeat behind one of the genre's originators. Iha's tenure with the heavier Pumpkins might not make him an obvious participant with this group, but consider the Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" and tell me that song isn't pure power pop. Besides, his 1998 solo album Let It Come Down owed more to 70's era pop and light rock than the angry angst of his regular band at the time. Iha also has a connection with Schlesinger, as the two co-own an indie label. I've never been a fan of Fountains Of Wayne (probably best known for the MILF ode "Stacy's Mom"). Their playful, humorous lyrics have always had too much of a "novelty" whiff for my taste. Hanson has grown up to become more than just the one-hit wonder voice behind "MMMBop", at least in my opinion. The man (all of 26 now) has one of the purest, most soulful voices in pop today and doesn't get the recognition he deserves, probably because of the "boy band" bias. A listen to Hanson's (the band) three releases this decade shows an accomplished, mature-beyond-their-years pop rock outfit that has had the misfortune of flying below the radar to the general public.
Tinted Windows finds itself in a crowded field, striving to carve out a place somewhere among the power pop domain dominated by Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and other Disney spawn, although their demographic would also skew a little older. Given the uneven results of their debut, they'll be hard-pressed to be heard above the din of shrieking girls going ga-ga instead over any of the aforementioned tween acts.
The boys have the formula almost right - well-crafted, succinctly tight songs (the songs average around the three minute mark, the album clocking in at just thirty five minutes), huge hooks and your standard lyrics about chicks and love problems. Somehow though, it hits below the mark and doesn't stand up to repeated listens. There's a little too much sameness to the material and the exceptional songs are few: "Kind Of A Girl", "Messing With My Head", "Back With You" and "Take Me Back" (with its obligatory "T-t-t-take me back" chorus stutter) are about it. The rest of the songs are fairly interchangeable and lacking in punch.