CD Review of Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne

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Welcome Interstate Managers
starstarstarstarno star Label: S-Curve Records
Released: 2003
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Hard to believe it's been seven years since Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood (better known, or maybe not, as Fountains Of Wayne) hit the scene with their self-titled but obscure debut. Does anyone remember the delightful radio ditty "Radiation Vibe" from the fall of 1996? Probably not, but it was brilliant and so was that first album. Welcome Interstate Managers is their third release, following a four-year vacation from music, and it seems to be more than worth the wait.

Call it a concept album, I suppose, since an underlying theme does manage to run throughout. Schlesinger and Collingwood play mentors here to various tongue-in-cheek perspectives on careers, good and bad. "Bright Future in Sales" tackles the daily pursuit of a computer sales geek by spilling, "I gotta do some quick reading for the big meeting." Meanwhile, the loathsome grind of a poor sap lumbering along in his dad's hardware store is played out in the Frankie Valli-ish "Hackensack." No doubt the power-pop undertones that feed the Fountains of Wayne fire were inspired by 1960s British Invasion. Not only do the glossy, super-sugared melodies reek of Oasis and others, the nasal vocals on tracks like "No Better Place" are a dead ringer for Liam Gallagher.

Maybe the most compelling part of the Fountains of Wayne equation is their ability to gather 16 songs with a common thread, a similar vibe, but not allow any of them to grow musty. Whether they are ripping across the most radio-ready piece, "Stacy's Mom," a giddy, pop-rock gem, or bringing it down on the wispy "Valley Winter Song," Schlesinger and Collingwood flourish in keeping the whole project fresh and unmarked. I dare you, in fact, to not fall hard for the roadhouse two-step "Hung Up on You" the first time you hear it! While the dreamy, all-skate tempo of "All Kinds of Time" shepherds the prettiest cheese ballad since "Keep on Loving You."

Whether they're bursting at the seams with tambourines over guitar rock ("Little Red Light") or ripping off themes from 1970s TV dramas ("Halley's Waitress"), Fountains of Wayne are having fun and sucking you in for the ride. Welcome Interstate Managers is wildly interesting and intoxicatingly addictive, not only because of its novel theme but because the record plays as a single, incorporated moment. Sixteen chapters of a particular rock sonnet have rarely sounded so good or made more sense. Just don't buy it for the read, buy it for the listen.

~Red Rocker