Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full of Holes
Review by Jack Foley
ANY new album from Fountains of Wayne has got to be welcomed… especially as Sky Full of Holes marks the band’s first since 2007’s Traffic And Weather. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Recorded in NYC and featuring 13 new songs by Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, the album offers the usual highly entertaining mix of high energy power pop and intimate, sometimes country tinged, acoustic ballads.
Also present and correct is the band’s penchant for strong storytelling, with each song representing an expertly crafted tale of everyday American folk and their trials, tribulations and successes.
Early proof that they had lost none of their sharpness came in the form of brilliant single Richie And Ruben, which opens with the bittersweet line “they opened up a bar called Living Hell, right from the start it didn’t go too well…” It’s sharp, witty, observant and couched in Collingwood’s reassuring vocals. The chorus, too, is a belter.
But it’s one of many such expert mixes of guitar-pop and melody, beginning with the lively The Summer Place (a sharp slice of hard rockin’ guitars and woah-ho harmonising) and quickly extending to the folkish Acela, another firm favourite that liberally sprinkles some piano arrangements into the mix.
If anything, Sky Full of Holes is the band’s most laidback offering to date… the guitars less forceful than before, the vibe less radioactive. But it’s a mellow summer session that makes for a cracking listen steeped in classic song-writing values.
Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart is a shimmering upbeat number that opens with the witty line, “staring at the sun, with no pants on…”, thus demonstrating that knack for winning lyricism. The ‘oh oh whoa oh” chorus is tailor-made for singing along.
There’s a strong sense of irony in Action Hero, a nod to the superhero culture currently dominating the multi-plexes that’s beautifully delivered, while the spirit of the Californian coast is perfectly captured on A Dip In The Ocean – a sure-fire summer anthem if ever there was one!
And the hits just keep on coming… Cold Comfort Flowers emerging as an enchanting ballad, A Road Song a laidback slice of country, and Workingman’s Hands a lovely ode to the everyday hero who provides the bedrock of any nation’s life blood.
A trumpet fanfare greets the upbeat Radio Bar to deliver the sort of offering that helps Fountains of Wayne draw favourable comparisons to They Might Be Giants, while there’s something classic and, yes, waltz-like about the instrumental structure of the romantic Firelight Waltz (one for the couples that’s dripping in heartfelt intimacy).
Final track Cemetery Guns, meanwhile, draws things to a stately, even elegiac close thanks to military style drum-patter and lush acoustic licks, married to imagery-strewn lyrics. It’s an excellent finale to another brilliant album.
Welcome back boys! And don’t make it so long next time.
Download picks: Richie And Ruben, Acela, Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart, Cemetery Guns, A Dip In The Ocean, Workingman’s Hands