Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Fountains of Wayne album might be a little too clever
Published: Apr 15th, 2007
Author: Brian McCollum
Source: Beacon Journal
In another universe, in another era, Fountains of Wayne would be firmly perched atop the pop charts. The New York band cooks up the sort of ear candy that could dominate the Top 40 if the Top 40 as we once knew it still existed -- in the days before synthetic dance tarts and glossed-up hip-hop were the culture's currency of choice.
Traffic and Weather isn't the strongest of FOW's four records. But despite its flaws -- notably, an overindulgence in lyrical wit -- it's a competent addition to the band's catalog of articulate, sunshine-and-hooks rock.
Since emerging a decade ago, Fountains of Wayne has excelled at what you might call the Paperback Writer school of rock 'n' roll: topical slice-of-life vignettes packaged within a crisp and catchy power-pop wrapping. Classic but not retro, FOW's songs aren't aiming to change the world or deliver a grand statement; they're out to provide a quick visceral thrill as you marvel at the craftiness behind it all.
Clearly brimming with confidence, Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, the band's creative brain trust, have turned out a handful of melodic gems here: the brisk lead single, Someone to Love; the brass-kicking Strapped for Cash; the delicious, multipart yarn New Routine. The tempo slows through the album's midsection as the band musically nods to a host of influences -- the Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, Simon & Garfunkel, Billy Joel.
The bold production, Schlesinger's first, reveals a keen ear for nuance -- carefully positioned tambourine shakes, detailed layers of guitar -- while avoiding the sort of clinical precision that saps the life from so many like-minded projects.
Still, the new album is often too self-consciously clever for its own good. There's a nagging sense that lyricists Schlesinger and Collingwood are all too aware of their accidental 2003 hit, Stacy's Mom, and this time there's no restraint in the pair's back-of-the-classroom drollery. The DMV worker of Yolanda Hayes, the newsroom lovebirds of Traffic and Weather, the haven't-we-all-been-there couple of Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim -- you can feel mowed down by a machine gun full of snarkiness before you're halfway through the album.
It's a rare lapse in judgment for a band whose hallmark has been its shrewdness, but it's not enough to fatally taint Traffic and Weather. And it doesn't keep the album from soaring above most everything else trying to pass for brilliant pop -- here in the 2007 universe or any other.