Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Fountains of Wayne returns, pop hooks intact, with 'Traffic and Weather'
Published: Apr 5th, 2007
Author: T. Michael Crowell
Source: Sign On San Diego
Pop is a funny thing. Some of it can be the most inviting sounds in music. Think The Beatles. Pretty good, no? Or, more recently, Marshall Crenshaw.
Fountains of Wayne's "Traffic and Weather" is a collection of 14 pop songs that retains the feel-good sense of good pop music.
On the flip side, pop can be as trivial as a hangnail, little more than a waste of time. How about all the pop tarts that dominate the music scene?
The key is the hook, that little bridge or chorus that sticks in your mind. Good pop really doesn't have anything “important” to say. It's just plain fun, catchy, bouncy.
Fountains of Wayne's Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger have been making shiny pop music together since 1994. Never heard of them? Too bad. These New York tunesmiths write some of the brightest pop songs around.
You've probably heard some of their work and didn't know it. Schlesinger, in fact, has had a pretty good career writing songs for films. It was his work you heard on the Tom Hanks film “That Thing You Do!” and, more recently, in the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy “Music and Lyrics.”
There's not much of a Top 40 playlist these days, but if there were, FoW would be sitting right at the top of it. MTV did pick up on “Stacy's Mom” from the pair's third album, “Welcome Interstate Managers” (2003), but generally FoW's music can be found on few radio stations. Most music “insiders” are keenly aware of FoW's work, but the listening public is left in the dark.
FoW has been pretty quiet lately, releasing only a set of rarities, “Out-of-State Plates” (2005), since “Welcome.” Busy with their film work, and not finding much success touring, the band has taken four years between its last and most recent release, “Traffic and Weather.”
This collection of 14 pop songs is not the best from FoW. That pleasure belongs to “Utopia Parkway” from 1999. “Traffic and Weather” seems a little too proud of its clever wordplay, but the hooks, that essential element, are here in full glory.
With Collingwood supplying the bulk of the lead vocals, and Schlesinger doing the heavy lifting on the writing, “Traffic and Weather” retains the feel-good sense that makes good pop good pop.
When “Traffic and Weather” first goes on the player, a vague breeze of nostalgia seems to flow from the speakers. Beatles 1964-65 comes to mind, among others. But FoW's music expands on those influences and creates a vision uniquely its own.
Collingwood and Schlesinger sing of driving Subarus (“ '92 Subaru”), pay tribute to a clerk behind the counter of the DMV (“Yolanda Hayes”) and complain about being broke (“Strapped for Cash”). Nothing demanding, nothing too heavy, too adult. Songs from everyday life – that's FoW.
The production here is stripped down to four piece, with backing vocals from the likes of ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur and additional guitar work from ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, so FoW's street cred is intact.
“Traffic and Weather,” although certainly as fine an example of pop music as is being made today, feels cheaper than previous FoW discs. Collingwood and Schlesinger seem to be dummying down their mix a bit, looking for radio play.
One doubts this will find much of a radio audience, and that's a shame. What could be better than a sunny day, an open road, and bright and shiny pop songs on the box?