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Super ensemble Tinted Windows hits the sweet spot

Tinted Windows combines the talents of, from left, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Hanson’s Taylor Hanson and Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger.

Special to the Times

Tinted Windows combines the talents of, from left, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Hanson’s Taylor Hanson and Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger.

An age-old rock species, the supergroup — rockers taking a break from their day-job bands — is supposed to strut, roar and smell of its bloated superness. By those qualifications, there is nothing overtly "super" about new "supergroup" Tinted Windows, made up of the four most unassuming men at their musical positions: Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Fountains of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos and singer Taylor Hanson.

The first three dudes are notorious wallflowers, and as for Hanson, has there ever been a cuter frontman who wanted none of the super-rockin' trappings? The guy has four children with the same wife, and he's only 26! Where's the fun in that?

And yet, put these beige nerdos together, and the result is a strange, sudden magic, short, sugary bursts of beach-blanket hooks, punchy harmonies and guitar jangle, perfect to crank on a sandy somewhere. Eight of the 11 tracks pull in under or around the three-minute mark, and that makes sense: This is a fantastical collection of 45s, of power-poppin' pajama-party moments.

Schlesinger — buddies with Hanson, studio partners with Iha and blatantly in love with Cheap Trick — is the primary catalyst and songwriter, and just like he does in FOW (Stacy's Mom, Red Dragon Tattoo), he excels at early-Beatles punch, she's-gone, sugar-smacked songs.

The sole intent here is to have fun and not go any deeper than the kiddie pool. On the shimmery summer pop of Take Me Back, Hanson stutters out the titular chorus as Iha plays a wavy guitar line, Carlos keeps a rickety beat and Schlesinger coos out the backing vocals: "I've been trying every trick in the book / Hoping you'll give me a second look." Being a lonely dateless dope has never sounded so fun.

First single Kind of a Girl is made up of generic parts — lusty woah-woahs, rote lyrics, classic chord changes — and yet it's totally refreshing, pop for pop's sake in a time of gloom and doom. Hanson's voice has a slightly — slightly — rougher edge than back in his MMMBop days, but he's still a Tiger Beat belter. Messing With My Head is Ramones lite, but Iha puts just enough fuzz on his licks to let you know this is a grown-up endeavor. Midtempo ballad Back With You is reminiscent of Weezer without the self-hate.

I'm not sure about the shelf life for Tinted Window's confections. It's like eating Fruity Pebbles for breakfast: Two bowls are sublime, but bowl three tastes like artificially flavored nuclear rice crisps. While the flavor lasts, though, you're gonna dig this record. Hmm, maybe the Windows are kinda super after all.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a … Wilbury!

The supergroup is a time-honored — and often silly, self-indulgent — tradition in rock. But like baseball fans and the All-Star Game, music nuts love seeing their faves spending one-off time together. With Tinted Windows joining the club, here are some other noted supergroups:

1969: BLIND FAITH Cream's Eric Clapton and Spencer Davis Group's Steve Winwood joined for one-and-done album Blind Faith (remember the creepy naked chick on the cover?) and hit Can't Find My Way Home.

1982: ASIA A proggers dream team! And dragons! Asia was built with dudes from Yes, ELP and King Crimson — and it helped Steve Carell, above, get the girl in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

1984: THE FIRM Radioactive! Bad Company's Paul Rodgers and Led Zep's Jimmy Page tried to play cool for MTV. Awk-ward.

1985: THE HIGHWAYMEN The second-greatest supergroup of all time: Cash, Kristofferson, Jennings and Nelson. That's serious cowboy clout. What supergroup could possibly be better?

1988: TRAVELING WILBURYS Lucky, Lefty, Otis, Nelson and Charlie T. Otherwise known as Dylan, Orbison, Lynne, Harrison and Petty, transcended novelty and made one of the best albums of the '80s: Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

Take the Traveling Wilburys: Now that was a supergroup! Dylan, Petty, Harrison, Orbison, Lynne — headstrong legends all. The prog-poppers in Asia were pretty darn super, too. Heat of the Moment? Heat of the awesome! Even Damn Yankees, that hairy-knuckled '80s aggregate led by Night Ranger's Jack Blades and insanity's Ted Nugent, was a rather super supergroup.

Super ensemble Tinted Windows hits the sweet spot 04/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 11:53am]

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