Fountains Of Wayne

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Fountains Of Wayne , 6.5/10
Utopia Parkway , 6.5/10
Welcome Interstate Managers (2003) , 6/10
Traffic And Weather (2007), 5/10
Sky Full of Holes (2011), 5/10

Fountains Of Wayne became America's prime Brit-poppers at the turn of the century. Assembled by New York via Boston singer and guitarist Chris Collington and by producer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Schlesinger (who plays in Ivy and wrote the hit song THat Thing You Do for the eponymous movie), the project yielded a classic of Sixties pop revival, Fountains Of Wayne (Atlantic, 1996). Except for two melodic gags a` la They Might Be Giants (Leave The Biker, Please Don't Rock Me Tonight), the songwriting duo is terribly serious in its re-examination of the melodic tradition, running the gamut from surf music at Ramones pace (Survival Car), Cheap Trick's sugary power-pop (I've Got A Flair), and especially latter-day Beach Boys (the hit Radiation Vibe). Far from boring the listener with predictable refrains, the duo shows enough eclectism to alternate daydreaming ballads (Everything's Ruined) and catchy, effervescent ditties (She's Got A Problem). The stories are not very important, but sometimes they too mark a revival of sort, a revival of ordinary life in small-town America: Sick Day (the standout) sounds like the Hollies (gorgeous harmonies) covering Freedy Johnston (plaintive realism).

After a three-year hiatus, Utopia Parkway (Atlantic, 1999) repeated the same show: Valley Of Malls is the The Might Be Giants-esque satire du jour, Hat and Feet is the Freedy Johnston-ian ode du jour, Denise is the Ramones-ish lullaby, etc. What changed is an arrangement a bit heavier on the keyboards and the orchestra, that sometimes echoes the Cars' synth-driven bubblegum (Red Dragon Tattoo) and sometimes mimicks ELO's grandeur of piano and strings (Prom Theme, perhaps the standout).

Welcome Interstate Managers (S-curve, 2003) is still classy pop music, although the least inventive one could do in 2003. From the stereotyped Mexican Wine to the synth-laden Cars-ian singalong Stacey's Mom (the hit), this is a show of state-of-the-art pop muzak, best when enhanced with sugary harmonies that evoke the naive sounds of Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel (Halley's Waitress, Hackensack, Valley Winter Song, Hey Julie). The bouncy, mild rockers Bright Future in Sales and Little Red Light add a bit of pepper to the proceedings. They rank among the most diligent purveyors of the pop chorus, but not much else is to be found on their albums.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Fountains Of Wayne sono i primi brit-poppers americani. Formati tra New York e Boston dal cantante e chitarrista Chris Collington e dal produttore e polistrumentista Adam Schlesinger (già membro degli Ivy e autore della hit That Thing You Do per il film omonimo), il gruppo ha esordito con un classico del pop revival dei sixties, Fountains Of Wayne (Atlantic, 1996). Ad eccezione per due gags à la They Might Be Giants (Leave The Biker, Please Don't Rock Me Tonight), il songwriting del duo è terribilmente serioso nella sua ri-esaminazione della tradizione melodica, a partire dalla surf music a passo di  Ramones (Survival Car), passando per lo zuccheroso power-pop dei Cheap Trick (I've Got A Flair), fino agli ultimi Beach Boys (l'hit Radiation Vibe). Lungi dall'annoiore l'ascoltatore con ritornelli ovvi, il duo mostra abbastanza eclettismo per alternare ballate da sogni ad occhi aperti (Everything's Ruined) e stornelli orecchiabili ed effervescenti (She's Got A Problem). I testi non sono molto importanti, ma a volte anche quelli aiutano una sorta revival, un revival di vita ordinaria in piccole città americane: su Sick Day (la perla) sembrano gli Hollies (armonie sontuose) che fanno una cover di Freedy Johnston (realismo lamentoso).

Dopo un silenzio durato tre anni, Utopia Parkway (Atlantic, 1999) ripete lo stesso show: Valley Of Malls è la nuova satira They Might Be Giants-esca, Hat and Feet lam nuova ode Freedy Johnston-iana, Denise la nuova ninnananna à la Ramones, etc. Di nuovo c'è solo un arrangiamento leggermente più duro di tastiere e di orchestra, che a volte sembra far eco al bubblegum sintetico dei  Cars (Red Dragon Tattoo) altre sembra fare il verso alle grandeur per pianoe archi degli ELO (Prom Theme, forse il pezzo migliore).

Welcome Interstate Managers (S-curve, 2003) è sempre classica musica pop, e la meno inventiva che si possa fare nel 2003. Dalla stereotipata Mexican Wine al singalong Cars-iano Stacy's Mom, questo è una parata di pop muzak, che migliora quando addolcita dalle armonie che evocano il sound naif di Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers e Simon & Garfunkel (Halley's Waitress, Hackensack, Valley Winter Song, Hey Julie). I balzi mid-rock di Bright Future in Sales e Little Red Light aggiungono un po' di pepe. Rimangono tra i più diligenti discepoli della musica pop, ma sui loro dischi non c'è nient'altro.

Out-Of-State Plates is a 28-track, two-disc compilation of rarities and unreleased tracks.

Traffic And Weather (Virgin, 2007), whose unifying theme seems to be existential boredom and therefore signals a transition towards adulthood, features at least one song worthy of Stacey's Mom and Radiation Vibe: Someone to Love. But the whole project is irrelevant as possible, and it's beginning to show.

The Smashing Pumpkins' guitarist James Iha, Fountains Of Wayne's bassist Adam Schlesinger, Cheap Trick's drummer Bun Carlos, the Hanson brothers' vocalist Taylor Hanson formed the supergroup Tinted Windows that debuted with the mediocre power-pop of Tinted Windows (S-Curve, 2009).

Fountains of Wayne's Sky Full of Holes (2011) went largely unnoticed but it was actually not much worse than the previous ones. Actually, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger proved to be thoughtful if humorous songwriters (Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart, Hate to See You Like This) while still capable of happy radio-friendly refrains (The Summer Place, Dip in the Ocean).

Adam Schlesinger died in 2020 at 52.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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