If you liked the Knack’s My Sharona, then you’ll love this power-pop supergroup who perform an homage to the golden age of three-minute guitar-driven bliss
Hometown: New York.
The lineup: Taylor Hanson (lead vocals), James Iha (guitar), Adam Schlesinger (bass), Bun E Carlos (drums).
The background: Tinted Windows are a power-pop supergroup comprising members of Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne and Hanson. Actually, only the Trick and FOW are bona fide power-pop groups, but what the four do together as Tinted Windows falls under that rubric: high-energy guitar-based pop songs about good times and bad girls, or bad times and good girls. “It’s about girls, the back and forth,” says frontman Hanson. “We’re trying to be as unpretentious as possible. We have a few songs with a little more of a tongue-in-cheek quality to the lyrics. But this is about the energy of guitar-driven, tight pop songs in the tradition of great bands like the Knack and the Buzzcocks and, for that matter, Cheap Trick.”
Woah there, pretty boy! Buzzcocks weren’t power pop, they were punk-pop – a major difference that would take a thesis to explain – and, in fact, you could probably quite reasonably argue that there never has been a British power-pop group (with the honourable exception of the Records, who were virtually a power-pop tribute act anyway). No, power pop is an American genre, always has been, always will be. Ironically, it began in the early 70s when Anglophile rockers like Big Star, the Raspberries, Stories and Blue Ash decided to stage a return to three-minute guitar pop inspired by (the memory of) British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Hollies et al. Because all around them were navel-gazing troubadours, sludgy metal types and prog rockers, nobody was interested, hence the first power poppers failed dismally, giving their music a bittersweet edge. It wasn’t until the late 70s and the likes of the Knack and Cheap Trick that power pop became a potent commercial force.
But really, despite the relative success of Fountains of Wayne and Weezer in recent years, it has generally remained a culty genre, generally ignored by the public but much beloved of rock critics for its “meta” qualities and element of homage – it’s pop music about pop music; highly (self-)referential music that celebrates a long-lost golden age while trying to instigate a new one. “The whole album is a love letter to power pop, everything from Weezerbliss to the Knack to Big Star, and to simple, guitar-driven songs,” Tinted Windows say of their self-titled debut album. From what we’ve heard of it, there is nothing on there as dark or multilayered as Big Star, who purveyed a kind of power-pop noir, and there is little of Cheap Trick’s sense of parody, although their debut single, Kind of a Girl, is suitably steeped in pop-lyric cliches – a search on iTunes for songs of the same title produced 150 items. Still, if you liked the Knack’s My Sharona or Good Girls Don’t, you’ll be digging out your plimsolls and skinny tie.
The buzz: “They fuse the sounds of power pop and rock and the new wave of the late 70s and early 80s.”
The truth: They’re an homage to an homage to an homage.
Most likely to: Make you Mmmbop till you drop.
Least likely to: Produce a Surrender or September Gurls.
What to buy: The debut album and the single Kind of a Girl are available now for download from iTunes.
File next to: Cheap Trick, the Knack, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne.