Fountains Of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers

Fountains Of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers

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Fountains Of Wayne

Album: Welcome Interstate Managers
Label: S-Curve/Virgin

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Sometimes it's easier to see the world by staying put. The Kinks used to crank out shrewdly observed songs that seemed informed by nothing more than the goings-on in the 10-block radius around Ray Davies' London apartment, as well as some imagined country idyll of years past. The references may have been specific, but the feelings were as universal as the borderless music that surrounded them. Though its references, musical and lyrical, came from later decades, Fountains Of Wayne demonstrated a similar gift with its first two albums, particularly the overlooked pop classic Utopia Parkway. Released in 1999, the album found all the elements for a teenage heaven–and enough angst for a dozen John Hughes movies–in the suburban sprawl of the Tri-State area. With Welcome Interstate Managers, songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood return to the same territory, and though many of the best songs remain stuck in Utopia's adolescent tangle, it's also the rare sequel that acknowledges the passing of time. For Fountains Of Wayne, growing up doesn't look so good from the other side; many of Interstate's songs come from that moment when campus greenery gives way to office parks, and too many highballs in airport lounges take the place of cheap beer by the pool. There's no bright future for the budding alcoholic of "Bright Future In Sales," and nothing but the past for the lovelorn obsessive of "Hackensack," who's stayed in his hometown too long. But while the joy may have slipped away from some of Interstate's characters, there's plenty of it in the album's songs, which revive Parkway's inhuman knack for hooks on the uptempo tracks, and improve on its gift for lighter-waving ballads. ("Hung Up On You" even showcases a gift for country weepers.) Even at their most piercingly observant, Collingwood and Schlesinger never lose their warmth for their subjects, and their lack of condescension comes through in the music, as well. One song, "All Kinds Of Time," even raises the possibility that transcendence might be found just as easily on a football field as in the mountains of Nepal. As a quarterback pauses before making the pass that will ensure his immortality, the world freezes, Matrix-like, to lift the veil on the past, the present, and the future. Undoubtedly there's a great pop song playing beneath the cheers as it happens.

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