Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Smart pop with sharp hooks
Published: Apr 1st, 2007
Author: Jay Lusig
Source: The Star Ledger
In pop songwriting, most love songs explore one of two extremes: ecstasy, or dejection. But Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, who lead the group Fountains of Wayne, are more interested in a middle ground, where characters end up not quite connecting with each other or forming uneasy alliances.
In "Yolanda Hayes" -- from the band's new album, "Traffic and Weather" -- a man pines for an aloof clerk at his local DMV office. When he finally approaches her and she just stares back at him, he thinks, optimistically, "I swear I see her crack a little smile."
In "New Routine," a Mineola, N.Y., waitress moves to Liechtenstein and meets a man there. But she becomes bored, and returns home. Her lover -- moving on himself, to Bowling Green, Ky. -- meets a woman who soon leaves him to return to Canada. "She's tried Roanoke, Reykjavik, Rome/Says you're really sweet, but I just want to go home," sings Collingwood.
Even when they're not about love and lust, Fountains of Wayne songs tend to be quirky and character-driven. More important, in terms of sheer entertainment value, they've got punchy rhythms, hummable melodies, and ingenious arrangements incorporating bits of everything from Beach Boys harmonies to heavy metal power chords.
There is nothing new about this brand of music. It's been around since the 1970s, and is generally known as "power-pop." But it's hard to think of another power-pop band that has been so good, for so long, as Fountains of Wayne.
The band formed more than a decade ago, taking its name from a Wayne store specializing in outdoor furniture and lawn ornaments. (Schlesinger grew up in nearby Montclair.) They have been releasing albums since 1996, and made their biggest commercial splash in 2003, when "Stacy's Mom" became a hit and led to a belated Best New Artist Grammy nomination.
This is their first post-"Stacy's Mom" album, not counting the 2005 rarities compilation, "Out-Of-State Plates." So you might think that, emboldened by their success, they'd try out some new moves. But they don't. They stick to their past formula, which would be a problem if their hooks weren't so strong, their lyrics weren't so sharp, and there wasn't so much heart in their ballads.
These songs can be really funny, too. In the title track, a TV news anchorman expresses his romantic interest in his female partner with the worst pick-up line ever ("We belong together, like traffic and weather"). And "Someone To Love" sketches the loneliness of one of its protagonists with a few well-chosen details:
"Beth Mackenzie got the job of her dreams/Retouching photos for a magazine aimed at teens/It's Thursday night, she should be out on the scene/But she's sitting at home, watching 'The King of Queens'," sings Collingwood. In the power-pop world, that's known as poetry.
Fountains of Wayne will perform at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St., New York, at 8 p.m. April 24. Tickets are $20. Call (866) 468-7619 or visit www.ticketweb.com.