If you were to rename Tinted Windows based on the former groups of its component band members, the best recombination might be “Cheap Fountains of Smashing Hanson.” Yes, the band is (was?) that bizarre of a “supergroup”: Adam Schlesinger, of Fountains of Wayne; Taylor Hanson, of Hanson (yes, the “MmmBop” Hanson); James Iha, of Smashing Pumpkins; and Bun E. Carlos, of Cheap Trick. At this point in time, it seems that maybe the whole thing was a one-off, maybe intentionally, maybe not. But regardless, the one album (Tinted Windows) that was released in 2009 was an interesting, if flawed, effort.
Despite the intriguing combination of members, the project seems mainly to have been driven by Schlesinger, who wrote 8 of the 12 songs and co-wrote one of the remaining four. And yes, it comes off sounding very much like a Fountains of Wayne album, albeit one of their lesser efforts. Mainly, I think what keeps it from being great is that Taylor Hanson’s power-pop vocals are a bit too earnest, lacking Fountains of Wayne’s singer Chris Collingwood’s subtly ironic humor that works best for Schlesinger’s songs. And with Hanson sounding fairly similar to Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, it really ends up sounding more like Cheap Trick Lite, along the lines of some of CT’s less-impressive-yet-sure-they’re-catchy-and-all later period songs. And for all intents and purposes, Bun E. Carlos and James Iha could have been any very good drummer and bassist — their presence doesn’t end up bringing anything uniquely identifiable to the sound, other than excellent musicianship.
Nonetheless, despite its generally generic feel, there are songs that stand out and grow on you, including the leadoff track, “Kind of a Girl,” which I believe was the single. But the song that I think is the closest thing to a classic on the album is, interestingly enough, the one song written completely by Taylor Hanson: “Nothing to Me.” If you squint your eyes and imagine Alex Chilton singing, and then take some sandpaper and scrub the polish off the production, it wouldn’t be too difficult to hear this as a Big Star song. Clearly Hanson has some songwriting skills (yes, Hanson fans, I know you knew that already) — after all, “MmmBop” was one heck of a great single, I’m certainly not ashamed to admit.
So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the entire album, there are definitely some redeeming moments inside Tinted Windows — you just have to put your face up to the glass and peer inside to see them.