Live review: Tinted Windows at the Troubadour

By | April 29, 2009

“We got something,” Taylor Hanson of Tinted Windows sang Tuesday night at the Troubadour, “Yeah, we got something.”

There’s no denying that: A new supergroup featuring veterans of the Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne and Hanson, Tinted Windows has a self-titled debut full of near-perfect power-pop songs, as well as a frontman who couldn’t look better in his soccer-mom shag and his tight white trousers.

Yet more than anything else, Tinted Windows’ first Los Angeles show emphasized what the band doesn’t have — namely, any collective sense of rock-star charisma. The hour-long Troubadour set was a rock concert re-imagined as a sort of trade-show demonstration.

The group’s lineup is a map of music-biz connections. In addition to his role in Fountains of Wayne, bassist Adam Schlesinger has worked extensively as a songwriter-for-hire, which led to his being introduced in the late 1990s to the three brothers of Hanson (you certainly remember the act’s “MMMBop”).

Additionally, Schlesinger and ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha co-own a record label and a New York City recording studio. As for drummer Bun E. Carlos, of Cheap Trick fame, the bearded and bespectacled artist has simply been around long enough to get the call when someone needs a noted power-pop timekeeper.

In the studio, these four craftsmen synthesized 11 new songs from dependable parts left over from hundreds of old ones; each tune sounds appealingly familiar after only a single verse or chorus. In its streamlined efficiency, the album makes a virtue out of professionalism, which Tinted Windows deserves credit for. If the album doesn’t sell, these guys should consider renting out their quality-control apparatus.

At the Troubadour, where the quartet was joined by guitarist Josh Lattanzi, professionalism calcified into disinterest. Hanson seemed overwhelmed by the task of connecting with the sold-out audience; more than once he opened his mouth as if to deliver some bit of banter, then closed it again without saying anything.

During “Messing With My Head,” Iha played a solo with all the enthusiasm of a guitar tech changing a broken string. And as the band’s rhythm section, Schlesinger and Carlos drove the music with competence but zero fire.

After playing everything on “Tinted Windows,” the band returned for a two-song encore. One was an unreleased tune called “The Dirt,” and the other was refreshingly affectionate cover of the Buzzcocks’ “I Don’t Mind.”

Hanson introduced the former as a song about cleaning up after a relationship in order to “make sure there’s no dirt left.” Someone should tell him that Tinted Windows could probably use a little dirt.

— Mikael Wood


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