On Wednesday 19th June Hanson released their 6th studio album, Anthem, in USA and held a launch party in New York City.
The event was shown across America through AXS TV.
Anthem raced through invisible connections from Amazon and I Tunes to computers and smart phones; hard copies of the music arrived through the post and special Anthem packages containing paintings and headphones started to arrive at addresses all over the globe.
The album began its move to various chart positions and fans posted in every available cyber space, their loves, likes, reflections and questions about the songs.
The music media offered their thoughts on the new music and revealed understanding and ignorance of the band in equal measure.
Meanwhile Hanson continued to promote Anthem, play shows, take pictures with fans and talk about their music and journey with professionalism and generosity.
It is tempting to wonder where Hanson find the energy to keep up the pace, but this has been their life for 16 years and their schedules and working routines are possibly beyond comprehension.
Looking back, it is difficult to capture the immense energy and excitement that has characterised the past week.
Maybe in the calm after the storm it is appropriate simply to offer some reflections on the music itself.
Anthem is an album of contrasts. There are contrasts in the overall styles of music, the particulars of each song and the mood created in the moment of each song.
Whilst there is a definite thread in the lyrics, the music itself forces the listener to stand in a different place from song to song and therefore reconsider the themes over and over.
Anthem moves fast. The spaces between the tracks are short and there is no waiting for the next song to begin.
This turns the album into an experience, much like a live performance. There isn’t time to ponder one track before the next intro comes and makes the listener adjust their position – at times with a jolt and at other times with a sense of relief.
The overall impression is one of expectation; the general consensus being that there are no tracks to skip here.
Anthem draws on Hanson’s influences and directly references particular songs and songwriters.
Hanson has mentioned AC/DC and Queen as flavours channeled in Anthem, but there are also clever lyrical references which happen almost without notice. A sudden word or phrase takes you from a moment in early 70s Simon and Garfunkel to an 80s Pat Benatar power ballad and beyond.
But if there is a clever referencing of sounds and lyrics to be celebrated on Anthem, it must be the song Tonight.
In this song, which is the last track on the album, Hanson deliberately uses phrases and titles from many of their own compositions as well as songs they have covered. It provides a nostalgic and euphoric end to the album and promises to be a wonderful encore.
Largely the professional reviews of Anthem have missed the mark, with some writers admitting that they haven’t kept up with Hanson music whilst trying to make assertions about how this album compares to previous work.
However Hanson thanked the writer of the following review, calling it unique.
Steve Hyden owns up to knowing less than he might about Hanson’s back catalogue but he presents a witty, insightful and generous assessment of the music and Hanson’s place in the current music scene.
His image of Hanson as “the pop equivalent of those Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender after the end of World War II, opting instead to prowl the jungle for years and years until they were needed again”, will probably have made Hanson smile although fans may see it differently.
Maybe it is inevitable that fans and critics see things differently. When their opinions coincide there is celebration. When they disagree there is conversation.
What seems obvious is that Anthem has caused a stir.
It has mostly been very well received and there is lots of conversation.
How it settles into the collection of Hanson music will be tried and tested on tour.
That is exactly what should happen, for Anthem was written with the audience in mind – not the critics – the fans.
Bring on the tour.