ALBUM: Shout It Out
LABEL: 3CG Records
FIVE WORD REVIEW: Full of pop and joy
LOCATION: Tulsa, Oklahoma
LINE UP: Isaac (married, two children), Taylor (married, four children, the randy sod), Zac (married, two children, yes really).
WHAT’S THE STORY?: So you’ll probably need a quick update on Hanson. Here goes. Isaac basically looks the same. Taylor has gone from gorgeous boy to gorgeous man without any apparent difficulty. Puberty has not just updated Zac’s appearance but actually provided him with an entirely new face, though he still struggles with puppy fat a little.
Right, got that? Great. Here we go then, quick piano glissando to open the album, and wham, it’s pop-rock right from start and right from the heart. It’s a bit dumb – they sing “there’s no need to rhyme it” then finish the line with a rhyme – but it’s weirdly difficult to question the sincerity.
We’re in Oklahoma, where the soft rock comes sweeping down the airwaves. Billy Joel, Elton John, the Jackson 5 – the sound is fixed in the 70s, although at times they also sound uncannily like emo-tinged Christian rockers The Rocket Summer. For this album, they’ve also reached back and brought in some heavyweight Motown veterans to try to add a little funk and soul to the white-boy rock.
It works too. The horn arrangements double the hook tally on ‘Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’’, and the brass stabs in ‘Give A Little’ add conviction to the sweetly coy innuendo. The songwriting rises to the occasion throughout – ‘These Walls’ starts like an organ-led Dire Straits before building to a gargantuan chorus, and ‘Carry You There’ is as effective a gospel pastiche as you’re ever likely to hear.
Because if you needed that update on Hanson, you probably didn’t know their big secret: they are fantastic, and always have been. Yes, it was all a bit creepy at the start, but go youtube any ‘MMMbop’ live performance and you’ll see 3 genuinely talented singers – who, by the way, wrote the damn thing. Now they’ve been playing and writing together for 18 years – and it shows.
Usually, solo spots on albums reek of contractual obligations and ego-massage. On a Hanson, it’s like an apple pie shared between friends. “Hey Zac, why don’t you sing this one?” “Isaac, what say we start this song with your guitar riff?” Closing track ‘Me Myself And I’ may be read literally as a tale of personal strength, but surely refers to the three brothers and their quest to ‘find a way to get along’. In fact the whole album should come free with a group hug.
“Plenty of heart and plenty of hope,” says ‘Oklahoma’s’ eponymous number. That’s Hanson.
SOUNDS LIKE: The side of the USA that makes you wish you were from it.
YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You still look forward to Christmas.