June 5, 2024

Time Machine: 2024 EP Review

If you've made it to this page, it's probably safe to assume that you're already aware of Hanson's fan club and the fact that they release an exclusive five(ish) song EP every year to fan club members. If not, well, now you are. You can visit this page on hanson.net to learn more, sign up, or renew. If you're already a member, there are two ways to listen. 1. You can stream the EP (and Hanson's entire catalog!) directly in their media player, or 2. If you're renewed through 2025, you can visit your order history page and download the song files directly to your device. Happy listening! 

Before I dive into each song, I want to point out that this year has provided a new challenge for anyone attempting a closer look at Time Machine. They haven't released the digital lyric booklet yet, which means I'm working off of what my own ears hear and a few crowdsourced fixes. I'd like to believe I'm a step up from some of the awesomely bad auto-generated youtube captions out there, but consider this your disclaimer that I've written these lyrics down as I hear them, and as of now there's no way to prove me wrong unless you can track down a Hanson and ask. Best of luck with that.

1. Every Time We Touch

At the end of each song segment you'll find my best attempt at transcribing the lyrics, and in the interest of transparency, I've made any text that I'm unsure about red. While "Every Time We Touch" is a contender for my favorite song on this EP, it's also the clear winner if we're giving a ribbon to the song with more red text than a King James New Testament. I really wasn't expecting an Isaac song to give me so much enunciation trouble, but this one had me going "What in the Taylor Hanson are you saying, sir?" on more than one occasion.

Good-natured heckling aside, the song is really fun. It has an 80s power-pop vibe that reminds me of songs like "Stop Me In My Tracks" (complete with similar car imagery) and "Somebody that Wants To Love You." Even without the complete lyrics, I can tell the general storyline is boy meets girl he likes and drives off into the sunset with her. I want to say that the "green lights, bright stars, and deep cuts" line is my favorite, but first I would need to be sure that's what he's saying. It just creates the perfect image of driving fast at night with a good sound track playing in the background, and I think the green light is more than just a traffic signal and is symbolic of the girl returning his feelings.

I didn't get to watch the listening party stream until I returned home from Tulsa, and I was shocked to learn that this song was born during an Isaac solo show at BTTI back in 2018. I was there in person and even briefly commented on how good his off-the-cuff writing was in my blog from that year. I can totally hear it now thanks to a little help from a clip shared on hansonstage, but I don't think I ever would have made that connection on my own. I'm glad to see it finally became a whole song and found a home on an EP.

2. Ahead of Your Time

This song immediately reminded me of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling, probably partly due to the fact that I had to memorize it in middle school, but also because I've heard Isaac bring it up a few times in passing. Without going full English teacher on you, I'll quickly say that "If" was published in 1910 and shares an author with The Jungle Book. The general premise is a father imparting wisdom on his son, and the structure is essentially a bunch of lines beginning with "If you can (insert responsible life lesson here)" and ending with a final line stating that if you can do all of these things, then "Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!" Basically, here's the formula for how to succeed in life.

I'm not suggesting that "If" was a conscious source of inspiration for "Ahead of Your Time," just that they share a common universal theme and a similar structure. And I PROMISE I'm not going to put the two side by side for a deeper nerd-level comparison, but if I did, I'd applaud the Hanson version for being more self-deprecating. Instead of implying "Here, son, learn from the master!" "Ahead of Your Time" takes a lot more subtle approach with a tone more along the lines of "I only know a few things for sure, but I'd like to share them with you." Honestly, I fall a little bit more in love with this song the more time I spend digging into it.

As for the sound, I think they nailed matching the melody to the lyrics. The chorus just oozes this sort of melancholy nostalgic feeling that's perfect for a song about the passage of time. Yes, it sounds like "Down" in places, but more than that I'm reminded of so many sad but catchy country songs of my childhood. It may not have the drawl or twang of a country song, but it feels like it has the heart of one.

On a less sappy, somewhat ridiculous note, between the "master of time" and "heart of a child," I feel like the wording in the chorus is a little bit Hocus Pocus, a little bit Doctor Who. If you mix the right ingredients: wisdom of elders, strength of your prime, and heart of a child, you can create a master of time. Were the Sanderson Sisters actually Time Lords?

3. I Don't Want To Work That Hard

"I Don't Want To Work That Hard" narrowly escaped the red letter lyric treatment, but only because re-watching the listening party stream corrected my misheard "Buddy, I'm sure" to "money off shore," and "Marry an influenza" just doesn't make grammatical sense even if it's 1,000% what he's saying.

In the stream, Zac mentioned that the character from this song is basically the same persona from songs like "White Collar Crime" and "Gold Miner" (he didn't say Seymour, but it sounds like Seymour, too). I love the idea of revisiting that guy from time to time with a new song updating us about his latest scheme or screwup. The song is pretty straight-forward and doesn't need an explanation, but I do love the bridge where you realize that maybe the guy is more than the lazy privileged tool he sounds like in the beginning. The mask of indifference slips off for just a moment, and you get a glimpse of a person who is incredibly overwhelmed and spiraling underneath all the fake bravado. But then the moment passes, and he goes right back to playing the role of the shallow guy who only cares about getting ahead and taking shortcuts to an easy life. It's kind of sad, but it makes for a better song.

4. Forever

"Forever" was giving me slightly religious vibes before I ever watched the listening party stream to confirm it. It sounds more like a romantic love than the type of love between a person and God, but it has several references to transcending the time we have on earth, so I think it's simply about a Godly marriage and spending the rest of your life with someone that you know is going to literally follow you into eternity. There's even a gospel choir in the background to tie it all together. Hanson left it all vague enough that you can take or leave the religious context and listen to it as just a love song if you want, but I do think it's there if you're looking for it.

This one has a few lyrics I'm unsure of, and ironically the one I'm least sure of is probably my favorite. During my first listen in my car, I was so sure I heard "You are the sixth string, the start of every daydream." I questioned for a moment what it meant. What has six strings? The answer I came up with was that a bass guitar typically has four, but a regular guitar has six. Musically, the sixth string brings the ability to play a melody and creates more harmony and depth in a song. It sounded like a great metaphor to me until I sat down to write out the lyrics, and after listening more closely, it sounds like "slip string." I asked a few friends and they echoed hearing "sixth string" and "slip string," but also added "sleep stream" and "sleep's dream." Whatever it is, I'm wondering if this is going to be that awkward moment where I wind up liking my own accidental lyric better than Hanson's.

P.S. I gave up transcribing the lyrics at the end because it kind of goes on, well, forever. I'll let you decide if that was a cleverly intentional choice.

5. Can't Stop Starting

I've already said that "Every Time We Touch" is a contender for my favorite song on this EP. "Can't Stop Starting" is its competition. I just love the ridiculously catchy tune, and it's the kind of song you can hear for 30 seconds and still be singing two days later. I also have to give it props for putting up a pretty good fight for my favorite cheesiest Hanson lyric of all time with a line like "I guess some just play with fire, 'cause pyros can't retire." (For now, first place is still held strong by "Have it sauteed, grilled or filleted, we're cooking up a backbeat, so pick up a plate.")

It also has a fun nod to their TTA song "Can't Stop" at the end, which led to a fun segue from "Can't Stop Starting" directly into "Can't Stop" at the Hanson Day concert.

The thing keeping "Can't Stop Starting" from taking first place, though? I can't get past the fact that the title/chorus sounds like a clever play on words at first, but when I stop and think about it, the meaning isn't immediately clear. Every time I hear it (which is plenty throughout the duration of the song), my grammar-trained brain begs "Finish your sentence! Can't stop starting WHAT?"

Obviously it's a song about a guy who can't help falling for a girl he meets, so I think logically the thing he can't stop starting is falling for her. Once those feelings get going, there's no putting it in reverse. It's already started, and he can't stop. There, it does make sense. But I still can't stop starting to wish there was one more word in there to make it a complete thought.

Do you hear any lyrics differently than I did or have any suggestions to fill in my blanks? Let me know!