PREVIEW: Hanson @ HMV Institute – 27.11.11

There are some words you dread to write; ‘apocalypse’, ‘famine’, ‘spending the day with Keith Allen’, and some you never thought you’d have to again. So here goes, deep breath. Hanson are back. Playing in Birmingham, on Nov 27th, at the HMV Institute. Step aside Aide you might get hurt.

To be fair, the Oklahoma Tulsa Triplets were phenomenally successful. Even back in 1997, before widespread digital dissemination and amidst the demise of the major labels.

‘MMMBop’, their saccharine soaked debut single, was a massive hit. Following you round department stores from here to Hoi Ann like evangelical tinnitus. Their debut album, Middle of Nowhere – rode the wave, and despite being familiar and formulaic the brothers Hanson owned at least part of 1997’s summer soundtrack.

And how many 12-17yr olds do you know that can shift 15million units worldwide? (If you live in Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff or London, don’t answer that question. I’m not talking about fake jeans or crack).

Since ‘creative differences’ with new label execs, after Mercury merged with Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJMG) in May 2000 and rebuffed the release of over 80 tracks due to ‘a lack of marketability’, the arrayan poster boys decided to go it alone.

They left IDJMG to form 3CG Records in 2003, and off the back of a Summer/Autumn acoustic tour, ending with a gig at Carnegie Hall, released their 6th studio album, Underneath, in spring 2004. Underneath sold 37,500 copies in its first week, numbers most acts at the Hotel Café would almost literally kill for.

Hanson have toured annually since forming 3CG Records, released 3 albums and 4 documentaries. They also continue to fundraise for charities combating HIV and poverty in Africa, and to work on solo projects. In fact, far from melting like a green witch in water, Hanson’s dance card has been pretty full over the past 8 years. Apart a 2006 sabbatical, but I guess you’ve got to fit puberty in somewhere.

So what about the music? Truth be told I hated ‘MMMBop’, always have always will, its bouncing repetition sets my back teeth on edge. But I’m guessing the brothers Hanson weren’t after Seattle grunge obsessed teenagers back in 1997. And their new album, ‘Shout it out’, has the credentials of Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and 5 times Grammy winning horn arranger Jerry Hey, lurking in the background.

Plus, and it’s a big plus, to leave a major label and carve out your own marketplace is a ballsy move, not one you’d expect from a bible belt teen pop three piece. The fight for creative control, a direct path to your audience and the freedom to market yourself appropriately, are all music industry machinations to deeply respect. But like opera, you don’t have to enjoy it.

So the burning question is have Hanson grown up? Will their new material translate into an inspiring live act? And what were these ‘unmarketable’ demos sent back by Island Def Jam, have we been missing out on a burgeoning piece of modern Americana? My heart tells me no, but my head reminds me misrepresentation’s happened before. Anyway, there’s a week to mull it over. For better or worse we’ll find out on Sunday.

Hanson play the HMV Institute on November 27th. For gig tickets and info visit http://venues.meanfiddler.com/hmv-institute/home

For more information on Hanson visit http://www.hanson.net

Ceri Black will be covering the gig on Nov 27th for Birmingham Review

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