When the first decade of the 2000s was coming to a close, the music scene was in a slump. Hip-hop was more commercial than it had ever been, Pop was over-saturated with Disney starlets, Alternative rock decided it was bored with being moody and depressive, and Rock was just missing in action. To say that everyone was praying for a new punk rock would be an understatement. Did we get it? Well not exactly, however when rock stars get bored they get creative. They take risks. They make music they want to hear themselves. In this case, we get the very underrated, often over looked Tinted Windows.
Tinted Windows were a super-group over sorts, made up of James Iha formerly of The Smashing Pumpkins, Adam Schlesinger famed pop song writer and bassist for The Fountains Of Wayne, Bun E. Carlos founding member of Cheap Trick, and Taylor Hanson of Hanson. Yes, THAT Taylor Hanson. The band was formed by Adam and James who claimed they wanted to do a project that featured big guitars, pop vocals, and no keyboards and that’s exactly what we get with Tinted Windows. No more, no less. What’s interesting about the line-up of this band is the fact that each of the members come from totally different backgrounds of music, making just about everyone scratched their heads in curiosity when they announced they formed a band. Even more interesting is the fact that despite sounding like the line-up was randomly drawn out of a hat, they were all good friends long before the band was formed. Well except Bun. E Carlos, when Adam and James enlisted his help for drumming duties for the album, his response was “It’s $100 per song. If I like it, it’s $50 a song” in true Bun. E Carlos fashion, I take it that he was a fan.
As for the songs themselves, they sound exactly like how you would imagine. Cheap Trick and Smashing Pumpkins teaming together playing a song written by Adam Schlesinger with Taylor Hanson on vocals. Confused? Well you should be. By all accounts, this project should be a total mess but actually, it delivers. The songs are simple, short, and to the point with plenty of sing-a-long hooks that Adam has gotten rich off of for the past 20 years. It’s next to impossible not to tap your foot and sing along with the “Oh Whoah Oh”s in “The Kind Of A Girl”. Say what you want about Adam Schlesinger but the man has gotten the art of making pop songs down to a scientific formula. Despite receiving a lot of heat for “Mmmbop”, Taylor Hanson has grown into a fantastic singer and talented song writer in his own right. The songs he penned for the album are actually some of the highlights. Without his keyboard at his waist during the few live shows they did, he awkwardly stands around looking like a pretty Kurt Cobain after a getting a make over by a group of tween girls.
One of the biggest complaints the mainstream reviewers of this records had was the songs didn’t hold up much past the gimmick of the line-up. Those people are missing the point. Tinted Windows wasn’t a project that was meant to change the music world. It was a group of guys who shared the same love for power pop simplicity of bands like Badfinger, Sweet, Big Star, and even Cheap Trick. All of the songs are about girls as any good power pop song should be, and above all, they are fun. At a time when rock music was overly emotional, and pop stars were trying to be either weird and pretentious like Lady Gaga or plastic and synthetic like The Jonas Brothers, Tinted Windows tried bringing back that fun and familiar adventure that had been missing.
It’s sad that this side project seemed to vanish as fast as it was put into production. With the talent of those involved, I’d be willing to bet that a second LP would have been even better. But Tinted Windows seem to vanish as quick as they formed. Each of the band members have claimed they were a legitimate band and not just a one off thing, but as of this review it’s been 6 years and not one announcement of a new album has come up, then again, also no announcement of disbanding has come up either. Very mysterious. Last year I reached out to James Iha asking him if we will ever see a follow up to the Tinted Windows debut, and shockingly enough, he replied a few minutes later with a simple “I’m working on it”. I was too stoked that one of my all time favorite guitarist of my childhood actually responded to my tweet to understand if that was an official announcement of some kind, or he was just being nice and flattered that someone cared enough to ask. Either way, I’m optimistic. Power pop is still missing in the mainstream and the last time it was in that state, out of nowhere, we got Tinted Windows.