Welcome Interstate Managers

Fountains Of Wayne

S-Curve/Virgin Records, 2003

http://www.fountainsofwayne.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/17/2013

The video practically shoots itself: bikinis, bright red sports car, swimming pool, gorgeous former model. It’s practically a checklist of “Things That Will Guarantee A Man Will Watch.” The song is a radio hit, at a time when that actually still meant something. All the signs are there for the next step, the path to rock immortality, and then.....it doesn’t happen.

In many ways, “Stacy’s Mom” is the best and worst thing to happen to Fountains Of Wayne. On the side of the former, it created an instant recognition point, a song that people tend to remember even a decade later. On the side of the latter, many people took it to be the sign of a band that had nothing else to say and relied on a cheap gimmick to grab a hit. The people who loved “Stacy’s Mom” never came back to actually check out the rest of what Fountains Of Wayne had to say.nbtc__dv_250

Which, of course, is a damned shame, because Fountains Of Wayne should have had staying power. They should have become the Maroon 5 of the early naughts: a power pop band who were incredibly versatile and could write a pop song better than 95% of anyone else out there. But sometimes, for whatever reason, those things just don’t happen.

Welcome Interstate Managers was the third effort from the group, and it remains their best work. While there have been some amazing moments on the records that followed, the blend of craftsmanship and mood on this album is just breathtaking. At the risk of sounding intentionally obtuse, this record makes you feel.

Much of that comes from the group’s skill at storytelling. Fountains Of Wayne has never really been about style over substance; they excel at both. Not only are their songs stylistically entertaining and diverse, but their stories share the same quality. Whether it’s the youthful indiscretions of “Stacy’s Mom,” the minutia of an office job in “Hey Julie,” or the melancholic feelings winter brings in “Valley Winter Song.” The listener can make a connection with these songs on an emotional level, something that much of the superficial, processed music of today is incapable of offering.

So, the stories are great; the music is even better. “Stacy’s Mom” certainly made sense at the time as the lead single from this record, but if one were to make that decision without factoring in buzzwords like “key demos” and “potential market” and “mass appeal,” this album is full of great pop songs. In fact, this reviewer would take the first twelve tracks from Welcome Interstate Managers, and put them up against anyone else’s best twelve – that’s how good the first two-thirds of this album is.

If we look at Welcome Interstate Managers as a baseball game, it’s a pitcher throwing a perfect game through seven two-thirds, before surrendering a walk and two hits. Would you categorize that performance as a great game? Absolutely, but it falls just short of achieving perfection. Trim two songs from the end of the record, and you have Don Larsen in the 56 World Series. As it stands, you have Galarraga in 2010: close but no cigar.

Rating: A-

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© 2013 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of S-Curve/Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.