"Lucy" is the sweetest ballad of longing since "Ben." I think if I were thirteen years old, I would live and die for "Lucy." And what, is there something evil and wrong and hateworthy about human beings who are thirteen years old? Maybe parents should spend a bit of time decoding the music of Hanson. Angst and anger and misfittedness do not have to foster the blind stupid hate of Marilyn Manson or the people who create anti-Hanson Websites. Teen foibles can foster beautiful and powerful art.
"Weird" simultaneously references Alfred Hitchcock and Soul Asylum: "We're just two strangers on this runaway train." "I Will Come to You" is a much stronger devotional than "I Wanna Be There" by the more hip-acceptable Blessid Union of Souls. And "Man from Milwaukee" succeeds as urgent, edgy, and ultimately goofy grunge. It's psychedelic cotton candy, a welcome new flavor.
The one constant criticism of the record I respect is that the scratches in "MMMBop" sound plastic, a bit of programming wizardry by the hit-producing Dust Brothers. This being the late Nineties, chunks of the album were programmed. But then again, a multitude of humans playing human instruments (tablas, strings, pedal steel, harmonica, horns, percussion) balances that out. The collaboration of a number of hotshot writers, producers, and session musicians makes this a big hit record. But the boys' live acoustic version of "MMMBop" proves such production extravagance unnecessary. As for the scratching, the Hansons are informed and dedicated fans of Sugarhill, the rap conglom that was scratching vinyl before the Hanson family included any children.
Last year's big summer single was by the Butthole Surfers. This summer's was "MMMBop." Who's to say which one's cooler? I accept the anti-music-industry sentiment that decries sameness. So does Hanson. (From "Weird": "When you live in a cookie-cutter world, being different is a sin.") The frothy, Mayberry-go-lucky bros hardly fit any pattern. Yes, they're teen stars, but that's hardly aberrant in these days of LeAnn Rimes, Johnny Lang, et al. Versatile and savvy, the Hansons haven't lived enough to write Springsteen manifestoes, but their view is worthy of the critical accolades gushing from the Village Voice, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Musician, and the rest.
There was one gaffe, however, in the early Hanson coverage by Entertainment Weekly: "Until Taylor suffers through the inevitable, Peter Brady-style change of voice, Hanson are walking on sunshine." No, Hanson are selling records. When they've lived enough to tell the world how to live, Hanson will -- label moguls permitting -- escalate their R&B/bubble gum/pop into something more weighty and challenging, something revolutionary. I see them maturing musically as they mature physically. Hell, they've written more than a hundred songs already, including the thirteen really good ones on Middle of Nowhere.
As for that voice change, about a month ago the Hanson gay faggot girls appeared on the Tonight Show. Taylor's voice was at the apex of pubescent cracking. He delivered a raw and cutting version of "Where's the Love" that convinced me positively Hanson is the true new Nirvana. They may not be drug-addled and disenfranchised, but the brothers are just as revolutionary. Unabashed mirth? Juicy hooks? Faith? Now that's revolutionary.