Ten years ago, I was in fifth grade. Everyone around me was listening to the Backstreet Boys, but I had a different favorite band. I was madly in love with Hanson.
I fell for their sweet lyrics, their pop hooks and the fact that they were my age. My poor father had to buy every album they put out because, well, I begged him for them. (The odd thing is that during the peak of their fame, they only put out one real album of their own original work. The rest of their catalogue included a Christmas album, a disc of demos from when they were even younger, and a concert album.)
By the time I was in seventh grade, my interest in them was waning and had faded entirely by the time I entered high school. Part of it was indirect peer pressure and part of it was that I was so burnt out on their songs and longed for something deeper. I never got rid of those CDs, but I became embarrassed that I ever listened to them. During this time, the band faded into obscurity, becoming nothing more than an irrelevant pop culture joke. They released an album in 2000, but I didn’t know it at the time, nor did I care.
While in high school, I discovered Wilco (but that’s a story for another day) and learned that Jeff Tweedy’s wife loved Hanson. Having run the legendary venue, Lounge Ax, I felt that she was Chicago’s premiere authority on what is good and what isn’t (musically). I reconsidered my stance on them. If she liked them, they must be cool, right?
So, during my junior year of high school, I pulled out Middle of Nowhere, dusted it off, examined the scratches on the CD, and stuck it in my walkman. I hid in my room, completely embarrassed, not letting my family see that I was, once again taking pleasure in something that they looked down on. The melodies were comfortably familiar, yet fresh to me. I could now see that they were actually a pretty good pop band, and what they had done was actually quite admirable.
They had put out a new record, Underneath, around that time, on their own record label, and I took a chance and bought it. I was impressed. They had really grown up. Their lyrics were better, their musicianship and production far stronger and, overall, they had put together another fine album. It was arguably the best album of the year.
I have since gone back into the feeling that they are a guilty pleasure and let the half dozen records or so that I’ve collected return to the shelf, where they are collecting dust. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about listening to their latest effort, The Walk. It’s always hard to pick up a new album from a band you have history with, especially when it’s an on again/off again relationship. I did not know what to expect.
One thing that always struck me about Hanson is that they have a lot of soul. They must have listened to a lot of Atlantic Records bands when they were young because it really shows through in their music. There is a lot call and response and layered singing. On the second track, “Great Divide”, there is a gospel choir singing in the background. Of course, it’s obligatory that I mention the obvious Beatles and Beach Boys influences that can be found in their harmonies.
It took me several forced listens before I found myself actually wanting to listen to it and singing some of the choruses while I did the dishes. The songs are thoughtful, catchy and well produced. Baby brother Zac (my former heartthrob) has stepped up on this record, writing some of the better, more reflective, songs, such as “Running Man” and “Fire on the Mountain.” You’ve gotta give these guys some credit. They’ve always been a real band, and now that they’ve gotten older, they’ve found their niche and it works for them. There is no doubt in my mind that this is good music.
However, somewhere around the middle of the album (I can never seem to pinpoint where exactly), I seem to lose interest. Maybe 50 minutes is just a really long time to spend with an ex. When you first see them you see the things you really liked, but then when you actually get to spending time with them, all of the things that you disliked start to show up again. You remember why you got tired of them, why you started looking for something new.
That said, Hanson is my musical macaroni and cheese. I know it’s not good for me, and I should probably consume something that’s better for me. I know it will just wind up going to my thighs but, in the moment, it’s so good!
Hanson – “Great Divide”
Hanson – “Go”
09/12/07 – TURNING STONE – VERONA, NY
09/13/07 – HOUSE OF BLUES – ATLANTIC CITY, NJ
09/15/07 – SONAR – BALTIMORE, MD
09/16/07 – 9:30 CLUB – WASHINGTON, DC
09/19/07 – HOUSE OF BLUES – CLEVELAND, OH
09/21/07 – NORTH FORK THEATRE – WESTBURY, NY
09/22/07 – THE CHANCE – POUGHKEEPSIE, NY
09/24/07 – WEBSTER THEATRE – HARTFORD, CT
09/27/07 – CARNEGIE MUSIC HALL – PITTSBURGH, PA
09/30/07 – HOUSE OF BLUES – CHICAGO, IL
10/02/07 – HOUSE OF BLUES – DALLAS, TX
10/03/07 – CAIN’S BALLROOM – TULSA, OK
10/08/07 – BIJOU THEATRE – KNOXVILLE, TN
10/10/07 – TOAD’S — RICHMOND, VA
10/11/07- AMOS’ SOUTHEND – CHARLOTTE, NC
10/12/07 – COYOTES – LOUISVILLE, KY
10/16/07 – ROXY THEATRE – ATLANTA, GA