The Walk [Bonus Tracks]

by: Hanson

Going independent was not only the best choice for Hanson, it was in many ways their only choice: they needed to prove that they could stand on their own as a band, to find their way into adulthood on their own. As they were leaving their adolescence behind, they began to battle the major labels, who thought the band should go in a different direction than the trio itself did, eventually leading them to form their own label, 3CG Records, releasing Underneath in 2004 as their first indie release. It showcased a band with exceptional pop smarts -- the kind of instincts that make for great pop records but don't really have much of an outlet in the 2000s outside of independent releases. Its 2007 follow-up, The Walk, is very much in the same vein, except it reveals the band developing a bit of a middlebrow adult contemporary streak, best heard in the plodding wannabe anthem "Watch Over Me," which is a bit too self-conscious in its good intentions. As always, Hanson shines when they devote themselves to pure pop, and The Walk has several exceptional moments here, including the deliriously good "Running Man," which shivers and shakes like classic '70s soft rock; the sleek, funky "Tearing It Down"; the bubbly, infectious "I've Been Down," propelled by a classic electric piano riff that brings it close to the bastard son of Steve Winwood and Billy Joel; the closing "Something Going Round," which updates "MMMBop" by keeping things lean and muscular. Even "Got a Hold on Me," heard on the bonus track-laden American version, demonstrates where they could go with their ballads, in how it marries a spooky verse evocative of Radiohead (complete with an extraneous cancer reference) to a poppy chorus -- it feels more natural, and is more memorable than much of the muddled middlebrow ballads here. Fortunately, that midtempo murk may loom large in the memory but doesn't really make for too much of the record -- enough to be noticeable, but not enough to make The Walk anything less than another very enjoyable pop album from Hanson. It's just that there's an excellent, tight, concise pop masterpiece buried within this slightly overstuffed but worthy record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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