Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Tunes: Fountains of Wayne, Traffic & Weather

Another round of power pop comfort food from Fountains of Wayne, with more tunes that pretty much grab you on the first listen (or, in the case of the handful of filler tracks, never really catch on) -- while some artists produce pop-ish tunes that take a few listens to sink in (i.e. Flaming Lips, Wilco, Pernice Brothers), FoW are all about the immediacy. Hooks front and center, new wave keyboard riffs, ridiculously clever lyrics. Not surprisingly, Traffic & Weather falls just a tad short of its predecessor, Welcome Interstate Managers, though that album's high quotient of memorable tunes and solid songwriting set the bar pretty high. Lead-off single "Someone To Love" kicks things off on the right track, another classic FoW ditty about lonely NYC singles, which seems like it's gonna be another cliched 2:30 boy-meets-girl serendipity thing, until she grabs his cab and they never actually meet. (I can't tell you how many reviewers lazily call this a "Stacy's Mom" rip-off, which it's not, unless you simply mean they drink from the same well of cutesy lyrics, new wave synths, and catchy hooks -- if anything, the chirpy female backing vox in the chorus are more reminiscent of the Rentals' "Friends of P" [one of the most wonderful songs ever, by the way], which I guess provides some common ground insofar as "Stacy's Mom" ripped off a Cars riff and "Friends of P" was produced by Ric Ocasek.)

Anyway, the album follows pretty much the same blueprint as the three before it (though sticking with the professional production sheen of the past two and not the lo-fi indie rock aesthetic that helped make the debut so fresh). Closely-observed character studies of local figures (the girl at the DMV window, the old men eating bagels at the diner) and moments in time (waiting for the luggage at the baggage claim, spotting your girlfriend with some nerd in Dockers) are their stock in trade; no sweeping pronouncements about love and heartbreak, just the little daily ordeals. And, as usual, the upbeat pop-rockers tend to stand out more than the slower, Paul Simon-ish ballads. If I have any complaint, it's that the keyboards previously used to tweak the occasional track now seem to be everywhere, making what was once an ironic bit of kitsch more dominant (and intermittently irritating). Still, it's a fun, thoughtful album, and a fine addition to their growing catalog of joyous (but melancholy) power pop.


Post a Comment

<< Home