Out-Of-State Plates

Fountains Of Wayne

Virgin Records, 2005

http://www.fountainsofwayne.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/25/2005

Two years down the road from their breakout album Welcome Interstate Managers , Fountains Of Wayne haven't quite gotten around to recording a full-fledged follow-up. The explanation suggested in this double-disc set's witty, extensive, band-penned liner notes: "we're too lazy."

The burgeoning worldwide shortage of clever, insightful power-pop created by this lapse is at least temporarily resolved by the recent issuance of this double-album of rarities, oddities and cover tunes, not to mention the obligatory pair of brand-new tracks. An oversized, hodgepodge collection like this would be an unlistenable mess in many artists' hands. The difference with Fountains Of Wayne is, these guys just can't seem to write a bad song.

Not even when they are singing of subjects as mundane as their friends' birthday parties ("Janice's Party") or a New Jersey flooring magnate ("Karpet King") do the proceedings lag. Again and again, songwriters/bandleaders Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger lend drama and pathos to the daily lives of their flawed, all-too-human characters while drawing from a seemingly bottomless bag of brilliant pop hooks.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It's also somewhat revealing that even the demos unearthed here have had considerable polish and thought applied to the arrangements. Collingwood and Schlesinger are craftsmen of the first order, whose "laziness" sounds more like perfectionism with every listen. Even a four-track demo Collingwood recorded at home as a teenager ("I Want You Around") shows great attention to detail and a precocious gift for vocal arrangements.

Highlights include the two new songs, which are terrific. "Maureen," an ode to a female friend who shares way too much information, is cut from the same irresistibly melodic guitar-pop cloth as "Stacy's Mom," and "The Girl I Can't Forget" is classic FoW, a simultaneously smart-alecky and wistful romp whose trumpet accents push it right over the top.

In between dazzling you with one tossed-off gem after another, the boys (Collingwood, Schlesinger, Jody Porter and Brian Young) take the time to lovingly cover a variety of influences, from Bacharach/David ("Trains And Boats And Planes") to ELO ("Can't Get It Out Of My Head") to Ricky Nelson ("Today's Teardrops") to Aztec Camera ("Killermont Street").

They are also funny as hell when they let loose with songs that might come off as novelty tunes in less skilled musicians' hands. Of special note in this regard are the deceptively pretty marital-argument-starter "I'll Do The Driving," the self-explanatory "I Want An Alien For Christmas," and of course, "…Baby One More Time." Yes, that's right, the infamous Britney Spears track, which they slow down, beef up and treat with utter deadpan seriousness.

This economy-sized basket of odds and ends naturally doesn't have the thematic impact of a fully realized disc like Welcome Interstate Managers. It's more like a garage sale in which every strange little knick-knack you pick up turns out to have something special about it. Context aside, a great pop song is a great pop song, and this 30-track collection is chock full of 'em.

Rating: B+

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© 2005 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 Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.