BAD HAIR, WORSE clothes and those inexplicable crushes - teenage memories are usually tainted by the weight of sheer embarrassment. Mercifully, being a teenager is temporary. For most of us, that is. It's a different story for those who achieved fame in their formative years. Donny Osmond has released 53 albums since 1971. Yet the mention of his name still brings to mind the kid with the chubby cheeks and the fluorescent teeth. Drew Barrymore, despite a prolific movie career, is still infamous for being the child actor who re-wrote the rule book on going off the rails. Whether or not Canto-pop's Twins can successfully grow out of their teeny-bopper mould remains to be seen. And then there's Hanson, who exploded onto the pop charts in 1997 as a blond, three-piece Christian rock sensation from Oklahoma. Their debut hit, MMMBop, was unavoidable. Whether you loved it or loathed it, the song was everywhere in the summer of 97. Their sunny melodies recalled the Jackson 5, while their occasionally wince-inducing lyrics could only have been written by teenagers, for teenagers. Theirs was sunny side-up pop, and like a troublesome teenage memory, you wanted to forget it - but couldn't. Their major label debut, Middle of Nowhere, went quadruple platinum, and fame beckoned. Rolling Stone hailed it as one of its Essential Albums of the 90s, while Q Magazine and Melody Maker proclaimed it one of that year's finest. Hanson were the three eldest brothers of seven siblings. Then 14-year-old Taylor took lead vocal and piano duties; Isaac, 17 was lead guitar; and Zachary (Zac), the youngest at 11, banged the drums. With long, lustrous hair and toothsome, beard-free features, it came as no surprise that Hanson - in particular, Zac - were frequently mistaken for girls. 'I actually used to fancy one of them until I realised he was a boy,' said ex-fan Lawrence Chu, now 20, shuddering as he recalls his ill-informed teenage crush. 'But even when you hear them today, you still see them as they were.' Barely able to see over the top of his kit, Zac also quickly became famed for his less than charming, brat-like personality during interviews. With teen magazines embracing Hanson's favourite colours, foods and hobbies, we learned that Isaac could imitate Kermit the Frog and that Taylor loved to draw and paint. Zac, meanwhile, could talk while belching - one of the hyperactive quirks that led to media nicknames such as 'Ritalin Boy' (after the prescription drug). Naysayers saw a young, doomed Keith Moon in the making; Taylor and Isaac, meanwhile, wooed the ladies with their bedroom poetry lyrics. And then, as quickly as they'd arrived, Hanson suddenly seemed to drop off the radar. After releasing the rockier and startlingly mature This Time Around in 2000, critics were won over, but many teenage fans were lured by the likes of *NSYNC. Selling an eighth of its predecessor's eight million copies, their sophomore effort brought the honeymoon to an end. Hanson's record label Polygram eventually split with the band over differences in what direction the lads should take. This, according to Taylor, is one of the best things that ever happened to them. 'You know, that record may prove to be one of the most important pieces in our career, because it was the second album that could have been something completely different,' he says from his hometown of Tulsa. 'We didn't work any less on the second album than we did on the first - and so there was a certain amount of disappointment,' he says. 'That said, selling a million records isn't really a disappointment, even if some might regard that as a flop. We made an album based on the only way we make music. People seemed to expect something else. The misconceptions about who we really were - or indeed are - tainted things.' Unfortunately for the group, those misconceptions still ring out today. Despite having emerged in April from a four-year exile with a new album, Underneath, on their own 3CG label, (and in Taylor's case, a wife and a son), Hanson now find themselves fighting their way out of the no-man's land between teen sensation and serious adult musicians. 'People get put in boxes and that's the nature of it, whether you're AC/DC or *NSYNC,' Taylor says. 'Pushing the perception of us forward is a huge task, but that's part of the job. Everything's progressing, in terms of our lives and our music.' Underneath is the sound of a band growing up, equal parts Bruce Hornsby sheen, and harmonies that are somewhere near Crosby, Stills and Nash. While still occasionally cloying in the lyrics department ('Throw me a line so I can anchor my pain') there's plenty to suggest that Hanson could still be a force in years to come. They're barely in to their 20s, after all. Despite their youth, however, they've still had seven years worth of snide comments from more disparaging corners to deal with. 'None of us are sitting around, shouting, 'Gosh, golly, we're really great! Don't you get it? Screw you guys! We're so talented!' You just have to do it,' Taylor says. 'That's why it's so important to get people to come and see live music. I mean, you can talk about music for days. Just playing is what really makes the point.' Getting people to ditch their preconceptions and listen in the first place, however, could prove to be harder. First impressions last, after all. 'Give them their due that they've started their own label,' says RTHK Radio 3 DJ Neil Chase. 'But however good MMMbop was as a catchy throwaway single, it will haunt them for the rest of their career. But then, Kylie has gone from strength to strength after her equally disposable I Should Be So Lucky debut 16 years ago, so maybe Hanson will have equal longevity. Though being a family band, and having put out a really horrid Christmas album before, doesn't exactly go in their favour.' Next to the sex-obsessed bump'n' grind of Usher or the antics of Justin 'Trousersnake' Timberlake, the clean-cut Hanson seem positively square. With more in common with Hootie and the Blowfish, this is their point. Music is the message, and having their own label will make it easier to spread the word. 'We've always had a real independent spirit about what we do,' says Taylor. 'Hanson has never really fit in to any kind of category quite right. But we like being in the trenches. We're our own worst critics, so we're always putting pressure on ourselves.' Which, coming from someone who achieved global fame before he could drink, drive or legally sleep with a groupie, is pretty level headed. Many young chaps in his position would have instead jumped at the opportunity to embrace chaos. Quite a test, wouldn't he agree? 'I think you'd be right about that,' he says, laughing. 'But I think being brothers is good for us in this case, because we kept each other grounded. We always have. It did feel crazy then - to suddenly go from doing something we liked doing to suddenly having millions of fans for doing that same thing. That's totally insane, and every band's dream, I think. But we'd also been a band for five years already. We'd established our own little fan base by then, had put out independent albums. We always knew who we were musically.' It's this sense of self-belief that seems to have kept them together. Hanson's story is devoid of the rock'n'roll madness, break downs or drug problems that have befallen some of their peers, although Isaac's hospitalisation earlier this year for what were described as 'rock-related injuries' threatened to change that perception. 'Yeah, I realise that could mean a whole bunch of stuff,' says Taylor. 'The fact is that Ike developed blood clots in his arms and lungs. He's grown up playing the guitar. He's been performing since he was 14. It was the way he'd been holding and playing the guitar. That combined with all the stress of performing, his arm started to completely go numb.' Suddenly unable to use his arms, Isaac's career as a guitarist was thrown into jeopardy. Emergency surgery cleared the blood clots. 'He'll be OK, but he's pretty much at risk for the rest of his life,' says Taylor. 'When you wake up one morning and your arm has turned blue and inflated and every finger's about double the size, you kind of go 'Wow, something's wrong'.' And it's here where you realise just how unflappable this band of brothers is. They've successfully navigated the storms of child stardom and emerged on the right side of sanity. And had the confidence to split from their label, start up their own and call their own shots. And in a couple of years, who's to say they won't have shaken off the shackles of public perception? Their strength lies in family ties - blood, as they say, is thicker than water. Well, nearly. 'The thing now is that Ike's consistently on blood thinner because of the clots,' says Taylor. 'Which means that, if he drinks alcohol, he's a lot of fun.' Rock'n'roll, indeed.