Welcome Interstate Managers

Fountains Of Wayne

S-Curve/Virgin Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I have a long history of falling in love with things -- girls, cars, food, bands. When I like something right away, I typically like it a LOT. This has, at times, resulted in acute embarrassment when I've later come to my senses and gained some perspective.

With that in mind, I'd like to introduce you to my new crush -- Fountains Of Wayne's third and latest disc, Welcome Interstate Managers -- and tell you that it's utterly brilliant, the best thing I've heard all year, maybe all decade. This densely packed, musically diverse set from Jersey legends-in-the-making FOW is filled with intelligent, nuanced songs that carry real emotional heft.

Even breakout single "Stacy's Mom," a four-minute blast of pop-rock novelty-song cheekiness, has a wistful undercurrent that gives it texture and resonance. Clever, bouncy and catchy as hell, this track also manages to capture perfectly the tortured longing for the unattainable that is the essence of male adolescent angst. The narrator may be slightly delusional, lusting after his friend's mom and imagining she's more than flirting in return, but the mixture of desire and tenderness ("since your dad walked out, your mom could use a guy like me") rings true and points to one of those earnest, vulnerable types who always get their hearts broken.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Mom" is paired perfectly here with "Hackensack," a melancholy mid-tempo tune about pining for a girl who's long since moved upward and onward. Thematically, though, this album is less about romantic longing than it is a slice of alienated twenty-something life. As adept at building a narrative as masters like the Kinks, as witty and sardonic as contemporaries like Josh Joplin, songwriters Chris Collingswood (lead vocals, guitar) and Adam Schlesinger (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals) inhabit one intriguing character after another, most of them struggling to find their place in a world that resolutely fails to care.

This theme runs through a whole string of songs touching on the soul-sucking drudgery of the workplace, from the throbbing, sarcastic power-pop of "Bright Future In Sales" to the airy folk-rock of "Hey Julie," and provides the lyrical connective tissue that binds together an album that's musically as diverse as you could ask for. There's jangle-rock with terrific electronic accents ("No Better Place"); Ramones-y punk-pop ("Little Red Light" and "Bought For A Song"); lush pastoral harmonies ("Valley Winter Song"); and smile-inducing country-rock ("Hung Up On You"). Not to mention a four-minute song about a single momentum-shifting play in a football game (the dreamy, strangely compelling "All Kinds Of Time") and perhaps the ultimate ode to lousy table service (the witty "Halley's Waitress").

Collingwood and Schlesinger are joined by bandmates and fellow musical chameleons Jody Porter (guitar, vocals) and Brian Young (drums, percussion), as well as guests such as former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Ronnie Buttacavoli, who adds trumpet and flugelhorn to a couple of tracks, notably the spot-on Chicago homage on the bridge of "Fire Island." If there's a flaw here at all, it's simply that this album may actually offer too much of a good thing; at 16 tracks, it could probably lose a pair toward the end and only gain in potency.

Sprinkled with superb rhymes ("I saw you talking to Christopher Walken") and sparkling turns of phrase ("You're awake and trying not to be / Wrapped around your pillow like a prawn"), buoyed by its effortless musical range, this album towers over most of the commercial dreck being put out by the record industry today. Don't let your local corporate radio franchise's merciless flogging of "Stacy's Mom" deter you; it's the bright red cherry on top of a 15-scoop hot fudge sundae. Welcome Interstate Managers is a great album today, and I'm willing to bet whatever dignity I have left that it will still be a great album long after tomorrow, next month and even next year.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Just for the record, it's four years later and this still gets an "A" and this month my favorite song on it is "No Better Place."

© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of S-Curve/Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.