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Fountains of Wayne is the self-titled debut album by duo Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, who recorded the album in five days. It was released in 1996 and has twelve songs.
The album opens with "Radiation Vibe", a perfect album opener. I don't have a clue what the lyrics mean but it still is highly catchy, especially the chorus. As the album goes on the listener learns this what Fountains Of Wayne are all about: simple pop-rock songs that remind you of a sunny day. here lyrics are fun too, as illustrated by the third song, Joey Rey, about a peer who they idolize and wish they were as cool as:
" Joe rey smokes at three
barks like a pigeon and watches tv
he's cool, cool, cool, cooler than I am
He knows what I don't know
got seventeen different words for snow that he signs
signs to a deaf girl named diane".
Yes the lyrics don't make much sense, but the songs are so bouncy and cheerful you don't really notice. They also sing about love to : "Sink to the bottom with You" is an undeniable expression of love by the two lads. However they can do mellow too, with the poignant "She's Got A Problem" without dragging the mood of the album down or losing them infectious power pop choruses.
The only time they stray from the soft/distorted guitar combo with simple drums is "I've Got a Flair" which features additional effects and it's the weakest track on the album for it. It doesn't matter though because after that song is "Leave the Biker" the best example of Chris and Adam's simple songwriting skills, and within no time you'll be singing along:
"Oh can't you see my world is falling apart
Baby please leave the biker
Leave the biker, break his heart"
The albums penultimate track, Please Don't Rock Me Tonight is another song just made for mass sing-alongs. The album ends gently with "Everything's Ruined" a touching ballad that retains that "Fountain's of Wayne" charm you will learn to love if you buy this album.
This album won't revolutionize your idea of music, but does have the ability to put a smile on your face and sing with Adam and Chris' humorous and delightful pop songs.
Download: Radiation Vibe, Leave the Biker, She's Got a Problem, Please Don't Rock me tonight.
Fountains of Wayne by Fountains of Wayne (1996)
Debut album of tightly catchy power pop songs recorded in five days by Adam Schlessinger and Chris Collingwood from material they had accumulated throughout the decade. The record has twelve songs and lasts thirty-six minutes.
One - Radiation Vibe
This song is too succinctly perfect for words but I'll try. It reminds me of high school. The song bursts into a circular rhythm of guitar fuzz and a catchy beat of bass and drums bouncing along smoothly. The chorus unveils sun-drenched guitar, uplifting a glorious surge of grimaced melody. The singer has a frog in his throat as he relates the girl he likes split with her boyfriend and now "it's time to say what I forgot to say." Except the words are more colourful than that. "Are you alone now / Did you lose the monkey? / He gave you backaches / And now you slouch / He didn't mean it / He's just a dumb ape / Reading Playboy /On your couch." She's taking some persuasion though, because, I guess, taking the piss out of her ex isn't very attractive, and soon he's asking her "Come on what's wrong? / It's a radiation vibe I'm grooving on / Don't it make you want to get some sun? / Shine on, shine on, shine on." He tells her he went to Pittsburgh to play professional sport but he broke his knee so now he's going to be a singer. The guitar rhythm has got a funkier, scratchier sound to it now, and then the gorgeous chorus returns, and it's so good they do it twice more, after a wordless, abbreviated bridging verse of wistful backing vocals that ends with a swooning screech of guitar reverb. The last anthemic chorus sustains itself noisily before the vibe disintegrates and the singer is left throatily invoking it to shine on.
Two - Sink To The Bottom
If Nirvana wrote a pop song that had more reflections playing in the light within their murky guitar sound then this is what it would sound like. It follows similar soft / loud dynamics and has big bass propulsion and surfing riffs. The singer's cracked and throaty ironic intonation sells the simple lyric. "The ocean is big and blue / I just wanna sink to the bottom with you". By the end though, after backing harmonies and keyboards and a blissful guitar racket, the song is sarcastic about the whole slacker ethos, and less in love with the girl; perhaps not even in love at all: "They're going nowhere, and I'll be there too / I might as well go under with you."
Three - Joe Rey
The lyrics to this one are thrown together, but then, so is the sketchy Joe Rey, who the singer "can't understand why he's so in demand." Perhaps he's a drug dealer. Musically this is mostly about the fast paced rhythm section, which is sometimes accompanied by lead guitar. It's a throwaway alt-rock song with a bouncy raucous sound and more harmonic hooks than most bands can muster.
Four - She's Got A Problem
Tonight, on a very special episode of Blossom... A ballad about a friend who may be depressed and self-destructing. The melody is sugary and affectionate but resigned and the music has a matter of fact feel of life going on with whatever precession of events follows next. The arrangement is tinged with a dramatic sense of sadness and concern that may outstrip the complexity of the situation conveyed by the simple underlying structure.
Five - Survival Car
Breezily begins with acoustic guitar before a drum roll quickly ushers in wall of sound guitars and even some doo-wop backing vocals. The rhythm is urgent but not intense and the vocal is wry and melodically adventurous. There's even room for a nice lead guitar solo despite the two minute running time.
Six - Barbara H
Another quieter song to start with and although the music becomes more heavily layered as it progresses I'd characterise it as a ballad with a warm sound. It's got a catchy rhythm guitar riff and a steady beat throughout. The lyrics seem a bit more personal and may be about two people getting to know each other.
Seven - Sick Day
One of the standout tracks and probably my favourite after RadiationVibe, Sick Day is Fountains of Wayne's most effective plaintive ballad. Captures the mundanity of working lives with a sweet humdrum tunefulness. The heroine toils away diligently as she plots taking a sick day. "She's a hell of a girl / She's alone in the world / And she likes to say hey good looking."
Eight - I've Got A Flair
This song is about how sometimes we really like the people we deliberately annoy or who irritate us in return, and how this is true for adults as much as it is children in kindergarten. It's also alert to best intentions not always bearing fruition, but is celebratory of making the effort. And sometimes, couples just get under each other's feet, but that's okay too. The golden spiky power pop music reflects the childishly mischievous but sincere and reflective tone of the words.
Nine - Leave The Biker
The tongue in cheek lyrics invoking a girl to leave her biker boyfriend to go out with our wimpy hero transcend cliché to make wider points about insecurity and jealousy and frustration provoked by insensitive jerks, or at least our impressions of them, and they do exist. "He's got his arm around every man's dream." The song revels in not reversing our genre expectations, although perhaps the kid should care more about the girl than he does about hoping she breaks the biker's heart. It's an impotent revenge fantasy more than a tale of yearning teenage love. The music is bright and fun guitar pop with a pretend swagger. The final lone piano chord sounds hopeful though, decisively replacing the biker like guitar with fading uncertainty.
Ten - You Curse At Girls
A mellow two-minute ballad with chunky guitars and weakly sunny keyboards and a gentle rocking beat backing up the gruff but fragile singsong whine of the melody. "You could get yourself in trouble [...] Sifting through emotional rubble" is a wonderful couplet, though it's broken up. The singer is admonishing somebody they say curses at girls, although whether what they say is true, and whether the singer should really be admonishing himself, is ambiguous. "Each time you curse at girls / You curse a little at yourself / Don't you know a girl gets angry." The singer sure seems to know from experience, and regrets it. "Don't you know it isn't right."
Eleven - Please Don't Rock Me Tonight
Another kids relationship song this time with a party setting in which things are going slightly amiss. The tune is big and bold and the music seems to be having a lot more fun at the party than the couple.
Twelve - Everything's Ruined
And we finish with one last quiet number which soberly reflects on how difficult it can be dealing with somebody who makes hasty decisions or who overreacts to the scale of problems. If you lose perspective it might seem like everything's ruined but if you act too quickly then everything will be ruined. The vocal is soft and subdued and the music sounds like the aftermath of something. It could be interpreted as either soothing or remorseful.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Radiation Vibe
2 Sink To The Bottom
3 Joe Rey
4 She's Got A Problem
5 Survival Car
6 Barbara H
7 Sick Day
8 I've Got A Flair
9 Leave The Biker
10 You Curse At Girls
11 Please Don't Rock Me Tonight
12 Everything's Ruined