Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Silly lyrics weaken Wayne’s power-pop
Published: Apr 24th, 2007
Author: Brett Milano
Source: Boston Herald
In one of his album titles, Frank Zappa asked a sarcastic question: "Does humor belong in music?" In the case of Fountains of Wayne, we’d have to expand that a bit: Does really geeky humor belong in power-pop music?
Fountains of Wayne is a perfectly good pop group, and they might have been a great one if only they weren’t so darn cute.
But like it or not, the humor is always part of the package. It’s there in Chris Collingsworth’s nasally nerdy way of singing. It’s there in an outright novelty song like their hit "Stacy’s Mom." And it’s there in the one-liners they sneak into virtually every lyric.
It’s an odd mix, with a musical approach recalling great bands such as Squeeze and Crowded House, but a lyric sensibility closer to "That ’70s Show."
Maybe that’s why Fountains of Wayne are still at cult level, selling out the Paradise after their first CD release in four years.
Onstage Sunday, the band had no problem re-creating the pristine sound of its albums (the extra-long soundcheck break between sets probably helped). Coolly dressed co-founder Adam Schlesinger had his guitar hero-look down pat when he stepped forward to solo. The words also came through clear, which was a mixed blessing: Just when they had you soaring with a pop hook, a dorky lyric such as "We go together like traffic and weather" (the chorus of the new album’s title track) would lessen the buzz. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with jokes, but great pop needs to hit on an emotional level as well.
So it’s no surprise that the best song in the set was relatively gag-free: "It Must Be Summer" is one of the gems of their catalog, with a celebratory feel recalling vintage Beach Boys, and it hit like a warm breeze toward the end of Sunday’s set. Though it was one of the oldest tunes they played, it held up better than "Stacy’s Mom," which immediately followed.
New York band Robbers on High Street had been pegged as a junior-league version of Austin’s great indie pop band Spoon, and Sunday’s opening set wouldn’t change anybody’s mind. The sound was remarkably Spoon-like, down to the jittery tempos, electric piano and yearning vocals (both bands seem equally obsessed with early solo John Lennon). But it’s worth remembering that Spoon was once pegged as a Pixies sound-alike; Robbers on High Street showed enough good song ideas to suggest it will grow into something more their own.