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Fountains of Wayne – Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

(1996), 7.5/10
Former schoolmates Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood formed Fountains of Wayne, christening themselves after a garden furniture and statuary store in Wayne, New Jersey. Although the pair recorded their debut largely independently, they were joined on tour and on subsequent albums by guitarist Jody Porter and ex-Posies drummer Brian Young.

If the quality of pop music could be measured by the quantity of memorable choruses and hooks, there’s a case for Fountains Of Wayne being the greatest pop band since the 1960’s British invasion. But because this band’s capacity for pop-craft is resolutely orthodox and traditional, their stylistic scope is limited, especially on this debut. Their lyrics lack any form of personal conviction or empathy, instead serving up irony-laced stories of office workers and suburbanites. It’s hard to offer any of this up as a criticism; Schlesinger and Collingwood are intelligent pop operators who know exactly what they’re doing, and their detached brand of pop is well-crafted, and plenty of other celebrated pop bands, such as Steely Dan and Beck, have pushed the detached element of their music further.

Their debut is their most stylistic homogeneous record, which is generally a good thing as this band’s often strongest at straight up power-pop. Accordingly, Fountains of Wayne often sounds like Big Star’s Radio City stripped of its angst and looseness, marrying abrasive guitars to bright pop melodies. Only the slowed down, reverb-heavy closer ‘Everything’s Ruined’ deviates from the formula, although standout track ‘Sick Day'(“Lead us not into Penn Station”) throws in jazzy keyboard breaks and acoustic guitars. And there’s plenty of enjoyable riff rockers like the dorky ‘Leave The Biker’ (“I wonder if he ever has cried/Because his kitten got run over and died”), ‘Sink To The Bottom’, and ‘Radiation Vibe’.

Occasionally Fountains of Wayne verges on banality, like ‘Please Don’t Rock Me Tonight’, but mostly this is fun, not earth shattering, pop; totally soulless and disposable, yet without compromising on intelligence or pop-craft.

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