Once again, Fountains of Wayne have proven themselves to be one of the best bands out there. Their new album, Welcome Interstate Managers, is an eclectic collection of perfectly crafted pop songs with their trademark rock edge. And even more so on this album, they stretch the limits of what they’re known to play: a wide variety of instruments, tones, and overall songs are laid out for all to hear. And it’s damn good.
The first track is a perfect example; starting off with a heavily distorted guitar, yet sounding far off in the distance, “Mexican Wine” goes into the chorus, complete with harpsichord-like keys, and right into the rock-heavy first verse. Very catchy, and extremely witty (lines like “he was killed by a cellular phone explosion/they scattered his across the ocean,” permeate the record), this introductory track grabs the listener and throws him back and forth from jump-up-and-down rock, to synth heavy pop. With melodies as infectious as the flu, FoW blows away most of today’s bands with precision and power.
Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger can be considered the best songwriters of rock today. The first five songs on Managers are as simple and as diverse as one can get: yet, their catchiness and ear-pleasing harmonies bind them together as a superior collection of songs. “Bright Future In Sales” is the trademark Fountains of Wayne sound – a quick song, with a nice, melodic-if-not-shocking chorus, as is the song “No Better Place,” arguably one of the best and familiar songs on the record. “Hackensack,” the record’s mandatory reference of the band’s homestate, is a soft, brilliantly crafted song that immediately brings the listener into the world being sung about.
The sixth track, “Valley Winter Song,” is an even softer, acoustic song that rolls along in such a way as to make one envision being right alongside Collingwood as he sings about going from Staten Island to the Upper West Side. “All Kinds of Time” is even more dreamy, bordering on the psychedelic, again showing the diversity and talent of the band.
“Little Red Light,” “Peace and Love,” “Bought for a Song,” and “Supercollider,” are the more standard Fountains songs, the sound of pop laced with punkrock; songs like “Fire Island” are softer, more on the pop-song side of the songwriting spectrum. The band even plays a country-esque song, “Hung Up on You” that features the slide virtuoso Robert Randolph. It leaves you wondering, “What can’t they do?”
“Halley’s Waitress” is a piano-laden song, complete with wah guitars and strings: definitely the most unusual song on the record, coming from FoW, but wonderful nonetheless. This is probably the song that will seal the deal as far as convincing someone how good the band is.
With a third unbelievably crafted record, Fountains of Wayne continue to push the envelope as to where rock bands can go in their songwriting. The simplicity of the songs, coupled with sincere yet witty lyrics proves to be a can’t-miss formula for one of the better bands in rock today. Fountains of Wayne confirm that a band can write a whole album that straddles the conventional idea of genre, that a band can put care into crafting a song, that a band can write a pop song and still be punk.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.