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HANSON

By Brad Hundt, Staff writer
OBSERVER REPORTER


“If history has a way of repeating itself, Hanson will vanish from pop music in short order.”

That’s what the 1998 edition of “MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide” had to say about Hanson. Back then, the sibling trio was a hot commodity with the middle-school crowd following their bubblegummy hit “MMMBop” and big-selling album “Middle of Nowhere.” But in the nine years since that less-than-optimistic forecast, Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson have stubbornly refused to shuffle off to Teenybopper Hasbeenland.

Now grown-up – well, in their 20s, at least – Hanson has released their seventh studio album, “The Walk,” on their own independent label and will be at the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Homestead tonight.

On the phone from Westbury, N.Y., last week, Taylor Hanson explained that the group he and his brothers formed in 1992 in their hometown of Tulsa, Okla., was bound to be more durable than, say, a Menudo or a 98 Degrees, because they weren’t cobbled together by an
image-obsessed producer.

“We were just a garage band that happened to be really young. We used to joke with people, ‘Just think of us as older guys with higher voices.’”

Since its release in July, “The Walk” has sold respectably for an independent album, peaking at No. 56 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. However, it hasn’t sold as well as its predecessor, 2003’s “Undearneath,” and is a far cry from the multi-platinum success of
“Middle of Nowhere.” Taylor conceded that he and his brothers were “competing against something that was a rarity, that level of success,” and that there are “a lot of perception
challenges.”

Now that all three members of Hanson are married, and 24-year-old Taylor and his wife have three children, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that the concerns voiced on “The Walk” are more mature than their earlier work. The album’s first single, “The Great Divide,” deals with the African AIDS epidemic, and was recorded with a children’s choir in South Africa.

Proceeds from the song, which was first made available as an iTunes download late last year, are earmarked to help a hospital that helps AIDS patients in Soweto. Taylor said he and her brothers wanted to help after they heard that Tulsa had the third-highest per
capita rate of AIDS cases in the country, behind only San Francisco and New York City.

“It was really inspired by seeing people in the middle of America and saying, ‘This is relevant to us,’” Taylor said. “To me, as a twentysomething, I think our generation has an
obligation to attack problems of that size.”

But being serious doesn’t necessarily mean down in the mouth. “The Walk” is full of plenty of hook-filled pop that will linger in your head for a day or two, whether you want it to or not.
The three brothers recorded the album with Danny Kortchmar, a one-time session
guitarist who has also produced recordings by Billy Joel, Neil Young and Don Henley.

“There’s a different feel to the whole album,” Taylor said. “There’s more space on the record. There’s less filling every nook and cranny. And that was partly a decision to really capture what it’s like when we walk in a room and play.”

Most of the people who come out to see them are their peers, Taylor said, in their teens or 20s. And though they’re intent on sitting at the adults’ table, they do serve up some blasts from the past, including, yes, “MMMBop.”

“We do a little bit of everything. We never shy away from that … Most of the people who turn away from their past probably didn’t have that much control over it when it started. It’s probably we don’t feel like it’s something we weren’t. It’s just something we did when we were a lot younger.”