New Kids (are back) on the Block

In a ringtone world speeding by so fast, maybe we need a cassette group to make it slow down a little.

That where the New Kids on the Block come in.

"We're like comfort food," said New Kids member Joey McIntyre. "There are certain things that bring you comfort and people latch onto that. Things go by so fast and the fact that we have such a history and connection with our fans, we can share that with them and bringing something new is even more exciting."

The Boston vocal group — founded by music impresario Maurice Starr in 1984 — is in the midst of a comeback, and, surprise, it's going very well. There's an upcoming North America arena tour, which is a far cry from the clubs the guys hit during their mid-'90s NKOTB downfall. A new album, "The Block," is a critical hit, proving to be a work more of conviction than confection. It debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's pop chart last week with 95,000 CDs sold.

"We had a stage but we also wanted to make music that we're proud of and make an album that we're excited about," McIntyre said. "Luckily our fans are back, too, and they keep thanking us but we thank them for coming back. If they didn't come back this would be a really fast story — we're willing to take that risk but we're glad they showed up."

Paul Cubby Bryant, morning jock for New York City's WKTU, said that excitement is high for the reunion tour.

"If they did it 10 years ago, people would be making fun of them," Bryant said. "The music cycle has spun around enough and enough time has passed — 10 years isn't as fun — so that there's a wow factor."

In show business, timing is everything.

"It's the right amount of time," member Danny Wood said. "We had been away from the business and we got back together for the right reasons — not for someone else's idea. We got back together because of the music. Donnie (Wahlberg) played me a song called "Click Click Click' and I loved and that's how it started out."

"The Block," sultry and a bit saucy R&B, is more adult-contemporary than pop. Yet, the album features several very notable figures from today's charts, including Ne-Yo, Akon, the Pussycat Dolls and producers Timbaland and Teddy Riley. Old pals New Edition are also featured on the track "Full Service."

"We didn't try to push and we didn't try to pull and we weren't begging people to work with us," McIntyre said. "We just wanted people who were excited about it."

"We worked hard to make music on our own before we went to Interscope (Records). We wanted to have our own direction and once we did that people knew what we were up to, they could feel it and put a sound to what we were doing."

The Kids, childhood friends from several Boston neighborhoods, were formed by Starr as a white counterpart to New Edition, which he also shepherded to superstardom. The group — also brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight — went on to sell more than 70 million records and set the table for the boy-group boom of the late '90s.

The group's North American tour began yesterday in Toronto and "New Kids on the Block: A Behind the Music Special Event," premieres 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 on VH1.

"The second time around is definitely sweeter," Wood said. "It means more because I'm going to be able to share it with my kids. They've been wondering what I used to do and they've seen the old videos but now they're going to come home from school and I have "The View' on TiVo and we'll watch that. It's satisfying to share it with the kids."
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