Fountains of Wayne - Traffic & Weather
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S always been a baffling mystery to me why New York’s Fountains of Wayne aren’t bigger than they are. In ate 2003 for instance, they received a Best New Artist nomination (one of two Grammy categories in which they were named that year) for their album Welcome Interstate Managers.
Ironiocally, that was their third album, following their eponymous debut (and its classic cut Radiation Vibe) and its follow-up Utopia Parkway (and the equally memorable Troubled Times).
Welcome Interstate Managers, meanwhile, spawned the incredibly catchy Stacy’s Mom (featuring that Rachel Hunter video) and looked certain to have propelled them into the big time. Sadly, not so.
Fountains of Wayne continue to deliver songs of excellence but aside from a hardcore and extremely loyal fanbase, they remain something of an enigma. Their fourth album Traffic & Weather is another return to form, packed with cracking, melody-strewn songs that tell rich, quirky tales of everyday American life.
As with all of their previous ventures, the New York based quartet – comprised of songwriters Adam Schlesinger (bass) and Chris Collingwood (guitar and lead vocals), and lead guitarist Jody Porter and drummer Brian Young – continues to reimagine early 60’s jangle, late 60’s psychedelia, 70’s classic rock, 80’s New Wave, 90’s alt-rock, and contemporary pop in their own inimitable style.
What’s more, there’s not a dud song on the release. And while Traffic & Weather just fails to reach the giddy heights set by Welcome Interstate… and songs like Mexican Wine, All Kinds of Time and Supercollider, it’s still a very rich listen indeed.
Favourites include lead single and opening track Someone To Love, which opens with a quirky riff before dropping into a toe-tapper par excellence, complete with references to Coldplay, organized crime and King of Queens. It’s an upbeat tale of loneliness in which Collingwood assures his subject matter that it’s worth waiting to find someone to love, complete with melodic vocal layering and a relentlessly optimistic “uh oh, oh oh, oh, yeah” chorus.
‘80s New Wave is evident on the riff-laden joyride that is ‘92 Subaru, while there’s another pleasant slice of contemporary pop to be found on the lovely Yolanda Hayes, complete with short, sharp guitar hooks and a lovely “who do you love” chorus that’s effortlessly reminiscent of The Beach Boys in their prime.
Title track Traffic & Weather is a rousingly straight forward rocker that drops some vibrant riffs and an edgier set of filtered vocals from Collingwood, Fire In The Canyon strays into country (but pleasingly so), and there’s a summer soundtrack classic in waiting on Revolving Dora, which revisits The Beatles at their most psychedelic.
We could go on… Michael And Heather At The Baggage Claim is a beautifully composed mid-tempo ballad that’s packed with endearing lyrics, a quirky sense of style and a heart-melting “ba, ba, ba, ba” chorus, I-95 is an achingly restrained slow-burner with another fantastic chorus and there’s some deliciously lazy guitar riffs running throughout the stoner classic Planet of Weed.
Come the banjos and mouth organs of final track Seatbacks And Traytables you should be utterly smitten – and quite possibly wondering the same thing as me. Why aren’t these guys a hell of a lot bigger!
Download picks: Someone To Love, Traffic & Weather, Yolanda Hayes, Revolving Dora, Michael And Heather At The Baggage Claim, I-95, Planet of Weed, Seatbacks And Traytables