When Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker collaborated in the 60s to form the very first rock supergroup, Cream, they set a precedent. However, since the days of Cream, not many high-profile collaborations have made an impact.
The members of Tinted Windows, all previously well established in the pop and rock communities, had a great opportunity to reinvent themselves and the genre they subscribed to. Their self-titled initial release seemingly aims to re-ground power pop back into its light, airy and love-struck roots. At best, it achieves this.
At worst, it discredits a group of musicians that should be capable of producing something much more impressive.
The overtly upbeat tracks and lyrics rife with relationship woes and lend to the album’s staleness while distracting the listener with bubblegum harmony. The fluidity and complementary sound that they achieve provides listeners with endless long drive entertainment… as long as you can stand the junior high tinged lyrics that unfortunately plague the album.
For a group of such talented musicians, one of the biggest distractions of their freshman attempt is the lack of depth. The first single, “Kind of a Girl,” is infectiously appealing with its clean guitar licks and peppy “woah-woahs” … but it still disappoints if you expect substance from the message. The entire album has that feel to it– that you are eavesdropping on a couple next to you on the bus.
The blast-from-the-past sound and playful lyrics of “Cha Cha” get stuck in your head, which is simultaneously great and horrible. Well-crafted tracks like “Back With You” and “Doncha Wanna” are less flowery and will likely go unnoticed, but are actually the most respectable tracks the release has to offer. “We Got Something,” “Nothing To Me” and “Take Me Back” border on whiny, while utilizing music that deserves better lyrics.
With Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger and the unmistakable Taylor Hanson fronting the band, Tinted Windows has all the right components for a decent power pop album. Surprisingly, they almost miss the mark. Then there’s guitarist James Iha, who seems strangely out of place even as a co-producer. Fans of the former Smashing Pumpkins virtuoso must scratch their heads when they come across this album. Previously establishing himself in bands like the Pumpkins and, more currently, A Perfect Circle, this seems more like Iha’s evil twin took over before recording. Or maybe it was his evil twin before, and this is the real, Hello Kitty-esque
James Iha that has been hiding from us all along.
In truth, the album comes off as more of another Hanson release, being a bit more MMMBop speed than it is Bullet with Butterfly Wings.
Hanson has the delicately powerful vocals necessary to put out a catchy album. Iha is a great guitarist, far more capable than this album allows him to show us. Carlos’s drumming never overpowers; a great shame for a man who got to work with the likes of John Lennon. Schlesinger’s “That Thing You Do!” fun and electricity is evident throughout the band’s debut, but doesn’t break any molds.
All the components for success seem to be there, but they just can’t seem to make it work. The most disappointing aspect of the music industry’s latest supergroup is in that their lyrics and sound are no longer relevant (or at least fetching) to an audience that would actually recognize each member of the band.
Despite this, Tinted Windows has promise.
They have a clean sound and clearly work well together. The music is energizing and toe-tappingly good. However, if subsequent releases continue to rehash the same old tunes most of these already-famous musicians have been singing for years, there will be little to appreciate for years to come. The true test of a group, or any musician, is the ability to stay relevant decades later.
Thirty years from now, when the members of Tinted Windows give this album another listen, are they going to be proud or are they going to simultaneously slap their own foreheads?
Only time…. and perhaps their aforementioned “cha cha” will be able to tell.
It’s not that Tinted Windows’ debut album is horrible, because it’s not, it’s just not what you would expect from four musicians with this much experience. Hanson’s vocals are fun, but repetitive. The same thing does for the drumming of Carlos and the bass playing of Schlesinger. Iha’s contributions on guitar bring the album up a notch, but the rest of the sounds isn’t nearly as multifaceted, leaving the listener to wonder if these guys have real chemistry together or if they are just dilly-dallying.
Songs like “Can’t Get a Read on You,” “Kind of Girl” and “Cha Cha” prove that these guys can be a pop-rock super group. The question remains however if that is what they were meant to be and what their fans want to hear from there.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.