Close To The Sun
Engine Room Recordings, 2010
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/26/2010
One of the frustrating things about being a big fan of Fountains Of Wayne is that they always leave you wanting more. They tour infrequently and record even more infrequently, producing a new album roughly every four years. The albums are brilliant, mind you, but they are relatively few and far between.
Apparently we fans are not the only ones who become restless between albums, though, as longtime Fountains guitarist Jody Porter recently issued his first solo album, Close To The Sun. There are naturally elements that feel familiar, both a chunkiness and a cheekiness to the guitars, a certain wiseass sensibility to the songs themselves, and solid pop smarts. The difference is that as a solo artist Porter takes his musical cues not from The Cars circa 1979, but from the Gallagher brothers circa 1995. From the first notes of opener “A Beautiful Life,” it’s obvious Porter is not just a fan but a devotee of Oasis.
The retro dreaminess of tunes like “Aurora” has cropped up from time to time in FoW’s work, but never in a sustained way; here it bleeds seamlessly into “Starscraper,” a virtual Definitely Maybe homage with its Beatles/Bowie hipster vibe and big, muddy sound. “Cars On The Motorway” breaks the mold a bit, starting out with just Porter over piano, but his vocals are pure Liam Gallagher, full of that dissipated, smoked-my-throat-out superstar vibe.
For the sake of variety, “The Little Things” delivers a slashing riff that’s more in Keith Richards’ wheelhouse; “Hide In The Light” and “In Between Time” play off mid-70s Bowie and Rundgren, a stripped-down yet dreamy art-rock vibe; and “The Kids Get Higher” has effects and tones that suggest Unforgettable Fire-era U2, a bit airy and grand. Still, these are simply modulations of the same basic palette of loud, muddy Brit-rock Porter maintains throughout.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that what sticks in the mind after a listen to this album isn’t the lyrics or the vocals, it’s the guitar. Porter is an excellent player, and Close To The Sun brims with juicy riffs and clever use of effects. That said, by the end I couldn’t think of a single chorus that I remembered the words to. Unlike your average Fountains disc – but very much like your typical Oasis album -- there’s precious little variety here.
While I have no doubt that fans of ‘90s Brit-rock will enjoy this album a lot, I don’t happen to be one of them. Different strokes, and all that. As for me, I’ll look forward to that next Fountains Of Wayne disc and more of Mr. Porter’s excellent guitar work.