Supergroup Showcase: Tinted Windows

THE PLAYERS: Taylor Hanson on vocals (Hanson), James Iha on guitar (Smashing Pumpkins), Adam Schlesinger on bass (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy) and Bun E. Carlos on drums (Cheap Trick).
THE STORY: According to the band’s site, Adam and Taylor have been friends for a while as have Adam and James. The three of them got together and wanted to find a drummer like Bun and eventually asked the man himself and he agreed. They recorded a self-titled album which came out in April of 2009 and toured. It seems the members have gone their separate ways since last year as there haven’t been any updates on the site.

Holy crap I love this record, you guys. I bought it along with the wildly disappointing Transplants record and Blind Faith’s record, but this one really blew me away. It’s not only one of my favorite supergroup records of all time, but quickly becoming one of my favorite records period. It’s kind of the perfect storm of a group for me to like. I am a gigantic Fountains Of Wayne fan, so Schlesinger’s involvement is cool, plus I know he and Iha have been on each others’ records and even own a recording studio together. I’ve discovered an appreciation for Hanson’s vocals recently and who doesn’t like Cheap Trick? So this is definitely a case of great tastes tasting great together.

Overall the record has a very power pop/rock vibe to it that oftentimes veers very closely to FOW territory (the opening riff of “Kind of a Girl” sounds almost identical to that of FOW’s “Little Red Light” off of Welcome Interstate Managers), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Back when I first discovered FOW, I would describe them to my friends as “what pop music should sound like” (this was in the early days of Britney and NSYNC) and that’s exactly what this Tinted Windows disc is. Hanson’s got one of those great, higher range voices that makes perfect sense when heard singing about girls (which seem to be the subject of most of the songs on the record), but also can get a good growly bluesy thing going on. I defy you to listen to this record without tapping your foot or bobbing your head. Even after just a few listens, I felt very comfortable and familiar with the record, singing along with the songs in my car. These songs won’t blow your mind, but they will make you want to move. I really like to think about what these guys would talk about when they were just sitting around shooting the shit. On paper the group sounds so strange. The guitar player from the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the Hanson kids, a guy from Fountains of Wayne and the Cheap Trick drummer, but it all works out on the record with everyone giving into their lust for pop rock gems.

I’ve listened to a lot of supergroup records while working on this column and while this one isn’t the first I’ve liked, it is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I really dig listening to the Wilburys, but, in the end, that sounds like a combination of dudes I can pull out. That’s Dylan, that’s Roy. With Tinted Windows, the whole record sounds not only like a band I want to have a hundred more records from, but also one that seems incredibly cohesive and polished. This is a unit not just a lot  If you like pop, rock or pop rock, I can’t recommend a record more than this one. Then go get yourself some FOW and Cheap Trick records and maybe even give Iha’s 1998 solo record Let It Come Down which, as you might expect Schlesinger appeared on.

Songs Of Summer “1979″ by The Smashing Pumpkins

I’ve decided to open up this whole “Songs Of Summer” thing to more than just this year, partly because I have a playlist on my iPod of songs that remind me of summer and partly because there don’t seem to be a ton of new summery songs this season. My intent is to do one a day, but we’ll see how that goes. So, my first pick for the newly expanded version of SOS is The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979.” It’s not my favorite summer song, but few songs put me so firmly in a nostalgic mindset as this one. Like I said before, I’m not that big of a Smashing Pumpkins fan, but this is absolutely, without a doubt, my favorite song of theirs. I’m not exactly sure when the song/video came out, but I do remember watching the hell out of it on MTV in the summer. As a kid I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV because my parents didn’t want me seeing women objectified in videos, but by the time I was in what most people call junior high (I just called in 7th and 8th grade as we didn’t have junior highs) I was staying home along during the summer days and filling up on tons and tons of music videos including this one. You can check out the actual video here (stupid places not allowing their videos to be embedded!).

The song itself just has a such an ethereal and dreamy quality to it, but I think the video really makes me think of summer with the kids running around, doing whatever they want and having parties. For the most part, my high school life wasn’t like that, but it seemed very protoytpical to my developing mind. I can’t hear the song without thinking first of the video, then of summer which leads to memories of riding my bike over to friends’ houses, not having any responsibilities and just hanging out. Good times.