Tinted Windows

Tinted Windows

S-Curve Records, 2009


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


A supergroup album always emerges with the same question hanging over it: which is more entertaining and/or impressive – the idea of the band, or the actual music they produce?

Tinted Windows’ parts are nothing if not impressive -- at least, if you’re a power-pop geek like me.  Fountains Of Wayne bassist/songwriter/producer Adam Schlesinger had been pals with New Jersey neighbor and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha for years, to the point where the two co-founded an indie label and went in on shared studio space in Manhattan.  Somewhere along the trail,  Schlesinger also befriended Taylor Hanson (yes, THAT Hanson), and the two talked off and on about doing something together.  When the three friends finally decided the moment was upon them, they knew they needed a drummer who would be in sync with the punchy, technicolor guitar-pop style they had in mind.  “Who do we know who can play like Bun E. Carlos?” Hanson remembers someone asking, musing on the drummer-for-life of power-pop legends Cheap Trick.  Eventually they realized they had nothing to lose by calling Carlos himself... and lo and behold, he was into it.

The end result feels -- for an admitted Fountains fanatic like yours truly -- a bit like FoW with a hefty helping of glammy swagger added to the mix.  Schlesinger’s trademark clever rhymes, tight rhythms and classic-pop “oh-oh-ohs” are all there, but the whole experience has both a rich pop sheen (Hanson) and a muscular thump (Iha) that take the music in a distinctly different direction.  If I had to name a single band these guys sound the most like, it would probably be… drumroll, please… Cheap Trick.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Nowhere is this more evident than on the kickoff track and no-brainer first single “Kind Of A Girl.”  Catchy as Velcro and propulsive as a cruise missile, this cut also finds young Hanson belting out his lead vocals in a style that sounds closer to Robin Zander than anything I’ve heard from his family-business band.  Iha backs up this impression with frenetic, pealing Rick Nielsen riffage and Schlesinger’s fingerprints are all over the power-pop-perfection arrangement.

Next up, “Messing With My Head” cages another slashing Iha riff inside crisp production and an achingly familiar retro-pop arrangement.  “Back With You” starts out feeling like a fairly by-the-numbers power ballad, with Taylor at his dreamy Hanson-est on the verses, but is almost immediately elevated by Iha’s expansive guitars and the arena-scale production.  “Can’t Get A Read On You” is a burning rocker that finds Iha and the rhythm section pushing Hanson harder yet, though it’s still solidly in the power-pop vein.  In between, “Dead Serious” leans to the sugary side of the equation and feels like a Hanson contribution, but when Iha’s guitar surges forward it’s a force of nature.   

Kicking off another notable trio of songs later on, “Cha Cha” is a dirty-simple Keith Richards riff dropped into a Raspberries single, one of those songs that’s impressive not so much for anything it says or does, but the way the guys play it, i.e. like they’re just digging the groove and vamping it up every second.  Carlos batters his snare and cymbals into submission backing Iha’s fat leads on the again very Cheap Trick-ish “We Got Something.”  And Hanson tries to give a little attitude at the mike on “Nothing To Me” and has a hard time selling it with his honey-sweet voice and earnest delivery -- but kudos for trying; the kid still sounds like he’s having a blast.

In the end it must be said -- returning to my original frame of reference -- that these songs lack both the quirky characters and the rich emotional subtext of your typical Fountains Of Wayne disc.  I doubt any of the four principals will ever regard these tracks as the pinnacle of their creative portfolio.  But are they entertaining?  Oh HELL yeah.  In that sense this album sounds pretty much exactly like what it is -- a quartet of power-pop demigods throwing a party in their clubhouse and inviting us in to listen.

[Six-weeks-later addendum: can't... stop... playing... album... too catchy... too fun... must raise grade from B+ to A-...]

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Awesome review. Favorite part: "If I had to name a single band these guys sound the most like, it would probably be… drumroll, please… Cheap Trick."

© 2009 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of S-Curve Records, and is used for informational purposes only.