Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fountains Of Wayne Sky Full Of Holes 2011

Fountains Of Wayne are a particularly smart pop band, with brilliant lyrics that celebrate mundane everyday times in the modern age. At times both acute and hilarious, they dissect the ordinary with scalpel-like precision. Musically, their influences are too many and too varied to detail. While they are derivative for sure, they combine Beatles, Cheap Trick, and ELO, as well as more modern popsters such as Tommy Keane, Sloan, Marshall Crenshaw and Brenden Benson (all inspired by the same pop Fountains Of Wayne are emulating), into a unique blend almost all their own.

This CD might not please all fans, as there are more mid-tempo numbers, and less fast power-pop, than on their 2003 classic Welcome Interstate Managers. But just because a band is branching out a little is no reason to turn your back. Quite the opposite, really. They may be maturing, but they're still having fun doing it. And the songwriting is as good as anything out there when they are firing on all cylinders, which is most of the time.

If you need rockers, the suburban ennui of The Summer Place, the island vacation of A Dip In The Ocean, and the dumb fun of Radio Bar are here for you, rocking fast and smart hook-filled power-pop. There's also a few country tinged numbers in Workingman's Hands and the Irish ballad Firelight Waltz (which could have been a great lost Waterboys song).

Richie And Ruben is a great slacker-makes-bad lyric that they write so well (think Bright Future In Sales). Someone's Gonna Break You Heart follows a commuter's depressed daydream with a big chorus and chiming guitar. A lovely lead guitar break saves the gloomy Acela. There's a deft lyrical twist to Action Hero. A Road Song is a soft-rock song for the girl at home with another particularly smart lyric. And finally, there's Hate To See You Like This, perhaps the most sadly accurate description of living with someone deep in the throes of depression you'll ever hear. In a big lovely pop ballad.

There are a few lesser moments (Cold Comfort Flowers, the closing Cemetery Guns), and even I'd like a few more fast ones, but there really is not much to gripe about here. Great lyrics, strong melodies, hook-filled choruses, interesting arrangements with enough creativity to keep things from getting dull, and Chris Collingwood's post-punk vocals that a) you can always understand, and b) slide between deeply personal and downright snarky with ease. The band members are all highly skilled, with Jody Porter's guitar a consistent standout.

There are not many power-pop bands that remain as interesting and intelligent (even when they're being stupid) as these guys. You don't have to think, but if you want to, you can.

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