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Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers


Review: Jack Foley

EVER since hearing the infectious pop-rock of Radiation Vibe, I have kept a keen eye out for any new material from Fountains of Wayne, the New York-based quartet who remain one of the industry's best kept secrets.

Their eponymous debut, as far back as 1996, was a classic slice of US-based alternative rock, which was embraced by the likes of K-Roq and seized by the movie producers of American Pie-type films to find a welcome place on their soundtracks.

The world seemed to be their oyster, particularly as second album, Utopia Parkway, found its way onto several year end best of lists. But, sadly, it became overlooked by the record-buying public.

Four years on from that commercial disappointment, and a self-enforced hiatus, and the Fountains of Wayne are back with another long-player that should feature prominently on the year end best ofs once again.

Critics regularly hail founding members, Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, as the masters of writing the perfect alternative pop song and, once more, they live up to that billing by delivering an album of simple, but clever, feelgood music.

Where the likes of Blink 182 go about their business with a type of 'if it aint broke, why fix it?' mentality, and everything else coming out of New York seems content to hop on board the pop-punk 80s revival at the moment, the Fountains of Wayne continue to expand their musical horizons, taking in 60s psychedelia, acoustic-based folk rock, country, as well as the power-pop of songs such as Radiation Vibe.

Hence, this is a richly diverse listen, which contains plenty of nods to musical influences, both contemporary and historical.

At their very best, the Fountains resemble a blissful mix of early Beatles, Monkees, and Simon & Garfunkel (of Mrs Robinson vibe) all rolled into one, while also hinting at classic Oasis and The Charlatans.

Their sound belongs more on the Californian West Coast than the gritty urban environs of the Big Apple, while their clever songwriting effortlessly taps into the modern world, its crazy idiosyncracies, hopeless consumerism and everything we have come to love and loathe about America as a whole.

As such, their songs not only deal with the time-honoured classic themes of love, work and ambition, but also frustrated commuters, drunken salesmen, pressured quarterbacks, bad waitresses, exploding cell phones, New England snowstorms and lousy directions.

And while some of the themes may sound like material worthy of the latest Radiohead record, the Fountains' skill lies in their ability to remain feelgood and free throughout.

The tone is set from the get-go with the brilliant indie rock of Mexican Wine, and Collingwood and Schlesinger barely put a foot wrong throughout.

Highlights include the cheeky Stacey's Mom (which possesses a Weezer/The Cars sound), about a crush on a girlfriend's mother, or the absorbing ballad, All Kinds of Time, which uses a quarterback's time between the snap and the impending tackle as a metaphor for life.

Supercollider, with its Liam Gallagher/Lennon-inspired vocals and psychedelic guitars, is another moment which makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, while No Better Place is a real 60s throwback with more than a little nod to the North Country Boy sound of The Charlatans.

In fact, given the sheer volume of classic musical references on show, you're likely to have just as much fun ticking them off as listening to the records themselves all over again.

Without doubt, this is one of the year's most infectious and effortlessly feelgood listens and we urge you not to let it pass you by.

 

Track listing:
1. Mexican Wine
2. Bright Future In Sales
3. Stacy's Mom
4. Hackensack
5. No Better Place
6. Valley Winter Song
7. All Kinds Of Time
8. Little Red Light
9. Hey Julie
10. Halley's Waitress
11. Hung Up On You
12. Fire Island
13. Peace And Love
14. Bought For A Song
15. Supercollider
16. Yours And Mine

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