Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Reason to gush over Fountains
Published: Apr 27th, 2007
Author: Ira Robbins
A funny thing happened on the way to Webster Hall Tuesday: Fountains of Wayne leaders Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood stopped by Joe's Pub to sing backup on one song for Neil Sedaka. As Schlesinger noted onstage later, Sedaka has so many hits he had trouble deciding which ones to perform. "We don't have that problem," he noted.
Not for lack of quality, though. Since emerging a decade ago as American pop's wittiest social commentators, Fountains of Wayne have lovingly mined and mocked the cheesiness of '70s culture and the mundanity of life, smartening up the gentle irony with knowing lyrical and musical references. (The band's big chart hit, "Stacy's Mom," was a clever homage to the tick-tock new wave sound of the Cars.) The dismal office details that crop up in songs such as "Bright Future in Sales" and "Yolanda Hayes," a romance set in line at the DMV, would make Dilbert proud. As dry comic novellas, Fountains' songs have no equal.
The New York-based band released its fourth album this month, and played six songs from it Tuesday. That the new material folded so smoothly into older repertoire during a 70-minute set underscored the sense that "Traffic and Weather" is essentially a continuation of its 2003 predecessor, "Welcome Interstate Managers." But placed amid such familiar tunes as "Mexican Wine," "Radiation Vibe" and "Hackensack," the memorable new gems mined from geographic touchstones ("I-95"), dead-end jobs ("Someone to Love") and slacker disasters ("Strapped for Cash," which borrows a bit from Billy Joel) only added to the pleasure.
In the group's early concerts, wanton unpredictability undercut the careful craft of their creations, providing a postmodern spin that made the off-kilter universe their songs described seem even more enticing. Onstage, while bassist Schlesinger stood to one side as a steady anchor, singer-guitarist Collingwood would mock himself, and the whole notion of being rock mockers, in a loose ramble of impromptu covers, false starts, shaggy dog stories and drunken asides.
Those days are gone. The quintet, joined for three numbers Tuesday by a trio of trumpeters, got right on track and stayed there. Ticking off such durable character studies as "Barbara H," "Denise" and "Hey Julie" with entertaining efficiency, they lit the afterburners for the encore. Schlesinger chose songs on the fly and cranked up the energy level (along with the bass volume). "Traffic and Weather" was tense and tough, more a groove and a chant than a song, and exploded into a rousing guitar solo by Jody Porter. Then they did a pair from the first album: "Joe Rey," with throbbing bass and feedback, and a slow, measured "Sink to the Bottom." An enthusiastic, charged performance of the brilliant loser anthem "Bright Future in Sales," which apes a couple of Steve Miller songs for fun, put a cap on the night.
The New York quintet Robbers on High Street opened the show, playing nicely sung modern pop with accented rhythms, adding a dash of antiquity in the sound of a Wurlitzer organ.
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE. A once-unpredictable band grows up to shed its surprises. Seen Tuesday at Webster Hall, Manhattan.