If there’s a running theme in Fountains Of Wayne’s work, it’s this: Banality points toward truth, because it’s almost always a lie. This is expressed directly in the wry story-songs of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, which chronicle the minor yet cosmically funny injustices commonly found in suburban America, and more subtly in the slick, shiny packaging of their bubblegum melodies and production. Superficially, Sky Full Of Holes replicates the sticky-sweet power-pop that Fountains Of Wayne has reliably turned out since the mid-’90s, when the band was as out-of-step with grunge and rap-rock as it is now among too-cool indie bands. Dig a little deeper, however, and Sky Full Of Holes progresses an ongoing story that has unfolded over the course of several albums.
Having already addressed the end of adolescence (on 1999’s Utopia Parkway), post-collegiate doldrums (2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers), and thirtysomething single life (2007’s Traffic And Weather), Fountains Of Wayne dutifully settles into adulthood on Sky Full Of Holes. It isn’t an easy process for the protagonist of “The Summer Place,” who daydreams about her days as a teenage shoplifter and swallows psychedelic mushrooms by the handful to alleviate her grown-up boredom. The business partners in “Richie And Ruben” haven’t given up on their dreams, but considering that they can’t get their shit together—illustrated via a long list of failures recounted by Collingwood in his reedy, vaguely detached tenor—perhaps that isn’t a good thing.
Loaded with songs about middle-aged subjects like parenthood (“Action Hero”), mundane family vacations (“A Dip In The Ocean”), and clinical depression (“Hate To See You Like This”), Sky Full Of Holes might be the most un-hip Fountains Of Wayne album yet, which is really saying something. But like the small-time characters they write about so vividly, Schlesinger and Collingwood don’t shy away from the mundane—they use it as a shield. It might seem like a deflection of real-life worries, but Fountains Of Wayne is actually trying to keep them hidden, like we all do.