When rock critics got wind of a new supergroup forming in early 2009 that would combine talent from the Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne, Cheap Trick and Hanson they were giddy with anticipation. But when Tinted Windows’ self-titled debut dropped in April, the gloves suddenly came off. Pitchfork called the record “hopelessly dated and irrelevant,” declaring “the whole of Tinted Windows is so much less than the sum of its considerable parts…” The review ended thus: “If there are dollar bins in the future, that’s where you’ll find this failed debut.” Ouch. Others were just as scathing. PopMatters complained that “Tinted Windows, tragically, is everything that a pop-rock disc shouldn’t be: bland, boring, and completely forgettable.” The reviewer thought the record was a “terrible, hookless affair,” perhaps “the worst album to be released in 2009 thus far.” There were more balanced reviews but they too were often hemmed in with backhanded compliments. The A.V. Club described the album as “wonderfully shallow,” Spin thought it “safe and bouncy enough for Jo Bros fans and Stacy’s mom alike,” while Rolling Stone preferred FOW more clever lyrics but allowed that “these likable tunes usually hit their modest marks.” Not exactly ringing endorsements.
I heard about these reviews at the time but only landed a copy of the record a few months ago. Imagine my surprise to discover that Tinted Windows is an amazing debut album. Forget all the rock critic super-group nonsense. Tinted Windows are a straight-up, guitar-driven poprock group, delivering a new century take on that stripped down late 70s/early 1980s melodic rock and roll sound, with all the usual nods to the Cars, the Knack, Big Star and the Cheap Trick. Adam Schlesinger writes most the songs and you can definitely hear the Fountains of Wayne influence on tracks like “Dead Serious” with its super hooky chorus or “Can’t Get a Read on You.” But as he noted in interviews, he deliberately toned down the signature FOW wordplay for a more direct lyrical style. You can really hear this on the debut single, “Kind of Girl,” with its solid thumping poprock groove. Other members of the group contribute a few songs: James Iha gets a nice slow Cheap Trick grind going with “Back with You” while lead singer Taylor Hanson’s “Nothing to Me” has some nice Beatlesque guitar changes. But the album’s hit single should have been “Without Love,” which opens with a killer hook that just won’t let up – hands down, best song on record. The Hanson/Schlesinger composition “Take Me Back” is another strong contender for a single with some very catchy hooks in the chorus. Without LoveTake Me Back
In separate interviews as recent as 2014 both Hanson and Iha claimed that Tinted Windows would be back with another record one day. Perhaps this time music critics will judge what the band actually delivers instead of what they thought the band should be. In the meantime, buy Tinted Windows wherever it can be found.