brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from Fountains Of Wayne …
Some see Fountains Of Wayne as underrated modern-day flag-bearers of catchy power pop. Others see them as a one-hit wonder who sings about the hot mom next door.
But every now and then, the New York alt-rockers are something else entirely: purveyors of pretty melancholy.
For all their sugary chord progressions and singalong melodies, there’s a serious side bubbling under FoW’s work. It’s mostly in songs written by frontman Chris Collingwood, who has a penchant for mixing sly humor with sadness. (Bassist Adam Schlesinger — the author of ‘Stacy’s Mom’ — tends to stick to funny, story-based pop.)
My favorite Collingwood tune is ‘A Fine Day For A Parade’ — a woozy beauty from their wonderful sophomore album, 1999’s Utopia Parkway. It sounds like a weary stroll through a weary morning, with guitars that are slightly disorienting, a melody that flirts with minor chords, and lyrics that include one of the great verses of the ’90s:
Years ago, she lost her daughter
Off to a sacred order
Where they got stoned and worked the earth
Clears up her head with bourbon
‘Cause beer is so suburban
And declasse for what it’s worth
But alas, I can’t find a video of it online — something that shows just how under-valued FoW is.
So I present you with a track from their 2003 breakout album Welcome Interstate Managers. ‘Valley Winter Song’ floats along like a bus ride up I-95. It’s both pensive and gorgeous — and has a lovely little electric guitar break in the middle.
It’s the kind of song that’s appealing whether you like introverted rock or hook-filled pop. But that’s Fountains Of Wayne for ya.