April 8, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 100  

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Remember Hanson?

By Mel Wong
Gazette Staff

MMMBop? MMMBoy… the Hanson brothers are back, but they’re not the same cherubic-faced pre-pubescent boys you remember from their 1997 hit album Middle of Nowhere.

The trio — guitarist Isaac (23), keyboardist Taylor (21) and drummer Zac (18) — have ditched their trademark golden locks for shorter ’dos, such as the faux-hawk Isaac currently sports.

After cashing in on their late ’90s fame with a world tour, a Christmas album (Snowed In), a live album (Live From Albertane) and a re-release of their indie recordings (3 Car Garage), Hanson waited until 2000 to hit listeners with their second studio album This Time Around. Despite critical acclaim, the album failed to make its mark on the charts.

Jaded by the mainstream music industry, Hanson negotiated their way out of their contract with major record label Island Def Jam and holed themselves up in their Tulsa, Oklahoma home studio. The result: the self-produced full-length studio album Underneath, which hits stores Tuesday, Apr. 20 on their own label 3CG Records.

The reaction so far: lead single “Penny and Me” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 Singles chart, making it the No. 2 indie release in the United States. And the video for the song — which features Samaire Armstrong, who plays Anna Stern on The O.C. — is in heavy rotation on MTV.

Listening to sunny lead single “Penny and Me” feels like reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road for the first time. It basks in the glory of driving out west on the open road, of being able to “roll the windows down, turn the radio up, push the pedal to the ground.”

The album features songs that share in this same vein of exuberance, such as the triumphant “Strong Enough to Break,” which tells the tale of the band’s break up with their former record label, and the Southern rocker “Hey,” which sings of cruising on Sunset Dr..

However, all the tracks feature Hanson’s hooky melodies and rich, lush three-part harmonies. Their best works are every bit as catchy as “MMMBop,” and even the weaker tunes are more original and memorable than whatever Britney Spears is coming out with.

And yes, Taylor Hanson really is married.



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