Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Fountains of Wayne proves staying power
Published: Apr 18th, 2007
Author: David King
Source: The Hawk
"Traffic and Weather" is the band's latest album.
Fountains of Wayne might seem like your usual one-hit wonder - remember "Stacy's Mom?" - but there is more to this band than a music video with Rachel Hunter in a bikini. All of their tracks have the makings of a pop hit, with ingenious lyrics, addictive melodies, and more hooks than a clumsy pirate convention.
FoW's newest release on Virgin Records, "Traffic and Weather," is a 14 track pop-music gem that continues the band's unrelentingly catchy songs that will stick in your head for weeks. Ever since Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood founded the band in 1996, they have been making pop music hits in the tradition of classic chart-toppers from the '60s to present day hits.
On "Traffic and Weather," you will hear a psychedelic rock song followed immediately by a southern rock tune and Beatles-esque tracks, all on the same album. They fit together seamlessly though, thanks in part to the theme of the album (many of these songs are about transportation).
The album is perfectly produced, layering harmonious vocals and adlibs, upbeat melodies, and memorable guitar riffs. The real strength of FoW, however, is their lyricism. Full of unexpected internal rhymes and creatively metered rhythms, this is an amusingly poetic album.
Each track is a short (usually no more than four minutes) character sketch. The remarkable thing is that each track manages to tell a story about lovable characters who listeners will get to know intimately and genuinely care about. The lyrics are concise and anecdotal, wasting no words while allowing listeners to become intimately acquianited with these pop protagonists and emotionally invested in their fates.
"Traffic and Weather"'s characters are just as relatable as those of FoW's earlier four albums. On the first track, "Someone to Love," we meet Ben Shapiro, a young lawyer who feels something missing in his life ("He calls his mom, says he's doing fine/ She's got somebody on the other line/ Puts Coldplay on, pours a glass of wine/ And curls up with a book about organized crime"). We are also introduced to Beth McKenzie, another young professional, who lands her dream job retouching photos for a teen magazine.
In a few short verses, you know they are perfect for each other. Unfortunately, they have only one brief encounter. Shapiro and McKenzie try to hail the same taxi cab in the rain, but "She cuts him off and leaves him for dead," in a devastating and funny closing lyric.
Other tracks introduce us to a young couple stuck in an airport after vacation ("Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim"), an attractive and grumpy DMV employee ("Yolanda Hayes"), a degenerate gambler with a price on his head ("Strapped for Cash"), and a cuckolded boyfriend who goes from calm to irate as he asks for an explanation from his cheating girlfriend ("This Better be Good").
Fountains of Wayne are such established pros at producing pop, it is little surprise that they are called in to work on Hollywood movies about pop musicians. In 1997, Schlesinger wrote the title track by the Wonders for "That Thing You Do" and contributed to the recent Hugh Grant movie "Music and Lyrics."
Whether you know it yet or not, you are probably a fan of at least one Fountains of Wayne song. "Traffic and Weather" takes enough from most musical genres to satisfy your particular tastes.
The scary part is that while Fountains of Wayne briefly visit many different musical styles, they often sound better than the bands who make their living off of playing only one.