It's hard to imagine a project with a stronger power pop pedigree than Tinted Windows. All four members come from bands that have perfected the craft of the perfect pop song: Tinted Windows is Hanson's lead singer Taylor Hanson, guitarist James Iha was in Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle, Adam Schlesinger is bassist and chief songwriter for Fountains of Wayne and Bun E. Carlos is Cheap Trick's drummer.
Hanson and Schlesinger have been friends for years, as have Schlesinger and Iha. The threesome wrote the self-titled album's 11 tracks and then brought in Carlos.
Even though Carlos wrote none of the tunes, Tinted Windows recalls Cheap Trick more than any of the other members' bands. That simply could be that Cheap Trick influenced Hanson and Fountains of Wayne (I don't know about CT's influence on Smashing Pumpkins, although given that Billy Corgan is a Chicago boy and Cheap Trick is one of the most successful bands to ever come out of Illinois, it seems very unlikely that a little Trick didn't rub off on him when he was writing the Pumpkins' songs). Melodically, both "Back with You" and "Nothing to Me" recall Cheap Trick tunes. Furthermore, Hanson sounds like he's channeling CT lead singer Robin Zander on the two tracks. That's part of the fun of Tinted Windows: hearing Hanson stretch his great voice here. It's as if he's flexing a different muscle than he uses when he sings with his brothers and it suits him well. For anyone who's followed Hanson from the band's start more than a decade ago, Taylor Hanson has emerged as a major talent.
But Cheap Trick isn't the only obvious influence here: the adorable "Cha Cha" sounds like a current cousin to T. Rex's "Jeepster." First single, "My Kind of a Girl," sounds, oddly, like a hopped-up Jonas Bros. track, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like the other songs here, "My Kind of Girl" has all the elements of a great pop song: clean production, ringing guitars pumping power chords, largely dispensable lyrics and a chorus you sing to.
As strong as "Tinted Windows" is-and make no mistake, it is a gem-I couldn't help but wish for stronger harmonies and a little more bite in some of the songs. But the boys in the band have no one but themselves to blame. I wanted songs that rivaled Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" (for my money, it is the best power pop song of the past 10 years), Hanson's "Mmmmbop" and Cheap Trick's "Surrender." That's a Herculean task to be sure, but if any group is up to the challenge, it's Tinted Windows.