Hanson – Shout It Out
June 8, 2010
I used to be one of those people who just laughed when you were talking about Hanson, thinking you were a little naive. By now I know that I was the one who was naive, because even though the band can sound way overpolished and like a playful, middle-of-the-road pop band on CD, your opinion of this band completely changes when you hear them live, where their mix of rootsy songs, rock & roll and alternative pop gets a raw edge and combined with their endless enthusiasm and heart for the music makes it an experience worth having.
Over the years, Hanson released a number of albums, that, if you look past the production and mixing, have some excellent songs. “Underneath” may not feel much like an album, but it has some excellent pop songs. “This Time Around” is still the crown on their work if you ask me and “The Walk” (their previous full-length) and “Middle of Nowhere” are also pretty strong albums. On those albums they have a good balance between upbeat, enthusiastic pop songs and sweet (sometimes a little bit too, though) ballads. So overall it’s a band that has plenty of musical talent and may not always be recognized for it. But the criticism isn’t completely unfounded. The band does tend to get a little repetitive at times and you could say that they weren’t really growing up musically. But to me, it felt that the band had more of a mature sound on “The Walk”, which was refreshing and it helped the album to feel like an album instead of a collection of songs. So this made me very curious to check out their 2010 release, “Shout It Out”.
First of all, the title of the album was chosen perfectly. Because this album is ambitious and more extravert than the band’s previous albums. Or at least, it seems that was the intention. It’s a commendable approach and the songs are all very solid and many of them have a kind of danceable groove or swing to it. In a way the band hasn’t really done before. But while the songwriting is pretty good musically, the lyrics don’t always stand out (though I recognize the band has always been stronger in writing songs with a sound that’s catchy and has a strong sense of pop sensibility than the actual lyrics that seem to be more focused on a younger audience). But what I’m missing most is the passion and enthusiasm that was often very obvious in the band’s previous work. I have a feeling it’s still there, but on most of the songs it doesn’t really show. Whether it’s the use of synths, the production/mixing, or something else, I’m not quite sure, but I think it’s a bit of a missed chance. On a few of the songs it comes out better (Carry You There, Give A Little, Musical Ride) and those are instantly some of the better songs. Also the (almost) funky radio hopeful Make It Out Alive is a very good song, probably tied with Musical Ride for the best song on the album.
I realize I’ve been kind of critical in reviewing “Shout It Out” but by no means do I think this is a bad album. It’s actually a remarkably solid album. And with songs like Waiting For This, Make It Out Alive, These Walls and Musical Ride there are a couple of really good songs on there even. But there are also a good number of songs on this album that aren’t bad at all, but not memorable either. Lead single Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ is fun for the first two times, but it doesn’t really stick with you too long. Carry You There is a little cliché, but it comes off honest, so I’d rank that a little higher, but songs like Use Me Up and Me Myself And I (the excellent vocal harmonies lift this one up though!) are a little bland even.
So overall I’d probably give this album 3 out of 5 stars. It’s a good, solid album, but it’s not as memorable as it could have been. I bet the songs come across much, much better live and I would encourage you to catch a show if Hanson ends up playing near you, but if you want to listen to Hanson in top form, I’d recommend “This Time Around” or “The Walk” instead of “Shout It Out”. Hanson tried to subtly change directions a little, and I can respect, even admire, that. Next time, maybe they can capture more of their live vibe on the album as it would have made this album much stronger as a whole.