this band's lyrics aren't that interesting.

 

Fountains of Wayne

 

Eh. Power-pop or something. The one guy wrote the title song for "That Thing You Do". I think they've done some other side stuff too. Research? Whatever.

lineup: Chris Collingwood (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Adam Schlesinger (bass, drums, guitars, keyboards, vocals).

review index: Fountains of Wayne / Utopia Parkway / Welcome Interstate Managers

missing albums: none, for once!


Fountains of Wayne - 1996

Rating: ***
Best songs: Radiation Vibe, Joe Rey and ehh...whatever else
Worst songs: Leave the Biker, You Curse at Girls, Please Don't Rock Me Tonight

 

Power-pop isn't a genre I tend to delve into that much. When it's good, such as Matthew Sweet's 100% Fun, it's catchy and, er, fun, but when it's bad, such as Weezer's green album, it's just incredibly generic and boring. Thankfully, Fountains of Wayne manage to keep their music relatively un-generic and mostly un-boring. Check out the first song, for example, where Chris's singing sounds rather like a homage to Kurt Cobain. Then there's "Joe Rey", which kind of reminds me of recent Beulah... Connection? Who knows. And there's always the slightly-odd tremolo-soaked ending "Everything's Ruined", which somehow allows for closure on an album that's made up of somewhat interchangeable guitar-driven songs.

The album's pretty consistent, except for a few songs near the end -- "Leave the Biker" and "You Curse at Girls" have some really annoying lyrics. Seriously, guys, please don't take the sensitive-guy power-pop thing too far. And "Please Don't Rock Me Tonight" is like the other songs on here, except with all the interesting parts viciously sucked out, possibly by those vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Overall, I like the thing, but it's obvious I don't know what the hell to say about it. It's short... How's that? Okay, I'll just stop now.


Utopia Parkway - 1999

Rating: ****
Best songs: Utopia Parkway, Red Dragon Tattoo, Denise...oh hell, here we go again
Worst songs: Laser Show, Prom Theme

 

Mmm, sounds like someone invested in some production tricks. Check out the first song/title track, which has a bunch of backing vocals and stuff! The damn sellouts.

Nah, I'm just kiddin'. This one's pretty much the same as the last one, except the songwriting's more consistent, and there's some more ear candy. "Red Dragon Tattoo" is a fine example of this, with the neato synthesizer solo and all. And there's also "Denise", which features uh... more backing vocals... and synthesizer... Wow, I really have run out of things to say, haven't I? Don't worry, I'll think of some way to pad out the rest of this thing.

There are a couple rough patches on the album, though -- "Laser Show" is a horribly tuneless mid-tempo "rocker", and "Prom Theme" is about as sappy as the title might imply. "Hat and Feet" is kinda dumb too ("I'm just a hat and feet"?!), but it's not that bad. The rest is power-pop (sorry for using that word again) which is fun and catchy and enjoyable, and that's good enough for me.


Welcome Interstate Managers - 2003

Rating: **
Best songs: oh hell...the first four?
Worst songs: oy...

 

I'm not quite sure why they took four years to make this. Whereas Utopia Parkway was the proverbial cornucopia of power-pop goodness, this is veering dangerously close to the Weezer side of power-pop. After the first five songs or so, everything just starts getting terribly generic. Certainly it's not a pain to listen to, but it's a big disappointment coming after such a great album. One question on my mind is: why are so many of the songs on here about people working in offices? This seems like a rather odd choice of topic. I mean, when you think "rock and roll music", the first thing you think of is probably not "regional sales director at a major midwestern dairy products distributor". Or something like that.

Anyway, it's not a total loss. The opening track "Mexican Wine" is as brilliantly catchy as anything on UP, and the next few songs are quite engaging as well (even "Stacy's Mom", with the oh-so-brilliant chorus 'Stacy's mom has got it going on'... and I'm not going to get into the song's actual subject matter). It's just after a while you get to boring shit like "Valley of Love" or "Halley's Waitress" that will make you wish for, um, the last album. Again, I can't quite understand what happened to the, er, songwriting talent. Maybe in another four years we'll get another good album.


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