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
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
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
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
1. Mexican Wine
2. Bright Future In Sales
3. Stacy's Mom
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
16. Yours And Mine