Today’s POP RESCUE saved from obscurity, is the 1997 debut album Middle Of Nowhere from American sibling trio Hanson. Is this album a total Bop, or does it belong Nowhere near your ears? Read on…
This 13 track album opens with fifth and final single Thinking Of You, a mid-tempo song, which feels a bit of an odd mellow place to start. This song isn’t particularly catchy, although it has some good guitar sections in it. I could imagine Natalie Imbruglia covering this and making it all okay.
That huge debut song is up next, yes, the song that Hanson are synonymous with – MmmBop. This song catapulted them to the attention of the media and the record buying public, who rewarded them with a UK #1. The chorus is by far the catchiest part – complete with guitar and record scratches, and of course those trusty ‘ba duba dop, Ba du bop, ba duba dop, Ba du bop, ba duba dop, Ba du‘ lyrics that have been helping people to sing along to nonsense ever since. Listening back to this song, i’m instantly reminded of how this musically sounds like a kid’s version of The Spin Doctors‘ hit Two Princes (definitely in the verse, partially in the chorus).
The third song is Weird, no, that’s the title. The song itself is mighty fine. It’s a ballad, and this song is pure genius. Gone are the roaring guitar, and the catchy high-pace chorus – this song gently plods along, and has some great vocal harmonies. Sadly this song only reached #19 on the UK singles chart, and really deserved to be a number one.
Speechless follows this and this is a great little funky, catchy song, with some great vocal harmonies going on. There’s plenty of guitar here, and
Up next is second single Where Is The Love?, which is another brilliantly catchy song that roars in with a wonderful drum roll from Zac. This feels like a companion to MmmBop in pace and style and was therefore unsurprisingly the follow-up to it. This is definitely a difficult song to not sing or tap foot to. Isaac shows off his more raw older vocals here, which sit perfectly against Taylor’s softer tone.
Dramatic piano ushers in Yearbook, sounding a little bit like a piano version of Backstreet Boys‘ Larger Than Life, before switching over to a slow but epic bass drum and cello led ballad. Vocals and lyrics shine here alongside this minimal beat and swooping strings track. At around 3 mins in, there’s some wonderfully warm vocal harmonies.
Look At You follows this, and we’re back to bass and funky guitar. This is quite an upbeat track, packed with lyrics. Taylor makes light work of the vocals here, and shows off his range perfectly. Why this didn’t get released as the final single in place of Thinking Of You, i’ll never understand. In the last minute, I get echoes of James Brown.
I’m guessing that next song Lucy is where little Zac gets his turn on lead vocals. The vocals are delicate, the sound is softer, and he sounds slightly nervous as his older brothers deliver some kind of Beatles-esque backing vocals. If you’ve got kids, you’ll appreciate the cuteness of this in a nativity concert kind of way, but to others it will feel a bit saccharine.
Third single I Will Come To You is up next, and this feels like it may have been a contender for a Christmas No. 1 (and upon checking, I can see that it was released 22nd November 1998 – so must have been). This song plods along perfectly, a rich, full track musically, with some wonderful vocals from Taylor. This reached #5, sadly missing the coveted slot.
Guitars usher in A Minute With You, swiftly followed by Isaac on vocals again. This is a pretty standard up-beat 90s teen pop song. The brothers add in some great vocal harmonies towards the end, whilst this song bounces along.
Eleventh track Madeline, is a mid-tempo track with strong guitar, bass and drums, whilst the brothers sing about a regret over a girl called Madeline. It’s quite a nice song, reasonably catchy in the chorus.
Penultimate track With You In Your Dreams opens like a missing Elton John song, before the guitars and vocals take it off into a mid-tempo ballad.
Then, with 9 blank tracks, you reach track 21, and teen pop Man From Milwaukee (Garage Mix). Okay, it’s not that kind of garage music, that was a couple of years away. This garage refers to playing guitar and drums in their garage. It’s nice enough, but it’s not really worth the wait.
Where are Hanson now?
Whilst this album came out in May 1997, their Snowed In album for Christmas was released in the November. It contained no singles, and stalled in the UK at #87. Since then, they’ve struggled to place an album inside the UK top 40 (achieving it in 1998 and 2000). Their most recently charting UK album was in 2007.
They returned to the UK singles Top 10 with track Penny & Me in 2005, but haven’t charted there since 2007.
Hanson have continued to find moderate success in their native USA, where they have continued to record and release albums and singles.
In 2013 they ingeniously launched MmmHops – their own beer marking their 21st year in music. They’ve also appeared on numerous TV shows, including American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. They were also guest judges on Cupcake Wars.
In 2015 they appeared on the fourth album by Owl City.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, there’s some brilliantly catchy songs on here, and some wonderful slower songs too. Look At You really should have made it as a single, and Lucy should have been left in the studio out-takes. I can only assume that due to The Dust Brothers producing MmmBop and Thinking Of You, it made the latter an inevitable single.
When people remember Hanson, they’re not remembering them accurately. Whilst MmmBop is a brilliant teen pop gem, there’s so much more here on this album.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1997 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.