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Wrestling with a half-Nelson

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"Hello. You've reached Gunnar Nelson's voice mail, but if you leave me a message I'll be more than happy to get back to you," tweets the cell-phone holding cell, as I pinch my thigh. "Have a most excellent day!"

Eew. That's right, a true pop nadir for yours truly, as I split the bleached ends of pop memory for a heart-to-heart with one-half of once famous pop duo Nelson. These days, the twins are sporting Joey Lawrence bowl cuts, a far cry from their trendy Cher manes (Manes!) of yore. And they're playing gigs at places like Epcot, where fanny packs can be heard chafing as the pleasantly insignificant relive memories not only of Nelson's one year of stardom ("After the Rain," was, after all, a million seller back when Paula Abdul was getting fat and Milli Vanilli knew what was "true"), but also of their father Ricky, and his pa, Ozzie -- the other Ozzie.

Nepotism and Aqua Net all around, then, as I dust off the jewel case of a fabled '90s used-to-almost-be. Um, if he returns my call ... most excellently. Which, obviously, he does. Wouldn't you?

Anyway, Gunnar (cough), whatever have you been up to?

"Well, we signed with Lou Pearlman and TransCon 14 months ago," he last chances, "and we're working on a new record for Lou at the moment."

Ooooooh, I smell a comeback! Or something resembling pork.

"This new project that we're working on for Lou is really, really exciting," Gunnar really enthuses. "In all honesty, it's just one of those things that we will not preview it live until it comes out with all guns blazing."

Omigod. A concept album.

"It's actually really hard to explain," he frizzes. "It's like when someone asks you, 'Hey, what does a color look like?' The best thing I can think is that it's really not like anything else on the radio. It's very groove oriented, much like INXS when they were doing stuff. Perhaps a little edgier. Very contemporary. I think it would fit on pop radio right now."

Oh, you mean like everything and nothing?

"I think what happened, honestly, is spending so much time in Nashville and not being given a proper shot, or props, for being in music as long as we've been," he props. "We spent six years there and ate a lot of crow and wrote a lot of songs. We finally realized that we could deliver The Beatles' "White Album" and still not be given a chance."

But could you deliver the Beatles' "White Album"? No. But you could deliver pizza. Surely there's that.

"After living under those restrictions for six years, we just started to act out," he acts out. "We were like, 'You know what? Screw this! This is no way to make music. The first song we did was a song called 'It's All About You,' and that was the first song we played for Lou."

And just how did you meet the Big Poppa? Perhaps some has-been litigation cocktail party, next to the pigs-in-a-blanket tray with plastic garnish?

"Well, it's actually pretty cool," he lies. "The president of Trans Continental `Entertainment` is a gentleman by the name of Greg McDonald, and Greg McDonald was my father's manager for 25 years. He's now our manager."

Coincidence, then. We'll just call it coincidence. So, how does it feel to be postured in the enormous shadow of Mr. Lou Pearlman.

"Well, y'know what? He's really talented," Gunnar shoots and doesn't score. "We were asked to work with their boyband called Natural, and Lou wanted Natural to recut our No. 1 from 1992, 'Love and Affection.' It was fascinating. It was a great peek into that world."

More talk follows about how "great" that song is, as I try to remember the last time it was played ... anywhere ... for anyone ... without a hairband joke or a VH-1 rockumentary to justify it. Was that on "The White Album"?

"Well, we experienced the largest paradigm shift in all of music history," he shifts. "What happened was, we were out on tour, and about eight months into that tour, playing to 10,000 kids a night, we didn't realize that Nirvana had happened. Basically, it went from the era of what I call 'confidence rock' to the era of 'insecurity rock.' It was the anti-statement."

And this is the anti-interview.

"There was this conversation at Geffen, when we made our second record," he sophomore slumps. "They said, 'You know what guys? This record is about being hip, and you guys aren't hip.'"

Ouch.

"We have been associated with an era," he blow-dries. "Your Warrants, your Wingers, your Ratts. But we've never been let into that club. Even when we were contemporary back then, we were the band that was too pop. It was our misfortune that the record came out the same year that Milli Vanilli broke. So you had these two guys with long hair and glitter and colorful videos and this outrageous presentation, and everyone's thinking, 'My gosh! It's Milli Vanilla!'"

No, dear. Nobody was thinking.


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