Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Album Review: Sky Full of Holes - Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne aren't cool. They're not sexy, they're not edgy, lord knows they're not hip. Their love of pop isn't drenched in enough feedback or ironic distance to appeal to the arty crowd and their love of pop isn't synthesized enough to get them onto Top 40. But for people who love classic pop songcraft in whatever form it takes this group is a treasure. They made their biggest splash aping the Cars but they're just as at home with Rick Nelson. Songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collinwood just need a hook and they're off. 

Sky Full of Holes is FoW's fifth album and it sees them consolidated their pop songcraft but narrowing their scope a little bit. There's little of the pastiche that's sprinkled the past two works as the band sticks to tunes grounded mostly in acoustic guitar, with electric flourishes. This turn towards simplistic production isn't surprsing considering that many of the songs first appeared in the band's 2009 acoustic tour.

An '09 Setlist
But Fountains of Wayne still knows how to play to their strengths. The rich, clever, suburban character studies they trade in are there in droves on songs such as "Richie and Reuban" and "An Action Hero". However, if you take, say, the driving lead track "The Summer Place" you see how Schlesinger and Collingswood transform mundane everyday experiences  into windows on aging and American ennui. In the song a bored 40-something's trip to her childhood vacation spot forces her to confront how she's changed and ends in an ill-advised mushroom trip.

Also present are the travel songs that have long served the group so well with the simple ballad "A Road Song" and bouncy train-triptych "Acela" providing both stylistic and geographical breaks in the album. "Radio Bar" mines the alcoholic nostalgia first seen in "The Girl I Can't Forget" to good effect before the album slows for the finale. "Fireside Waltz" is another sweet song to a bedraggled sweetheart while the military drums and resigned lyrics of "Cemetery Guns" bring things to a satisfying close.

So, if you are a new to Fountains of Wayne is the the best place to start? No. That would be with any of the band's neigh-untouchable first three albums. But should fans of the band own this album? Absolutely.

The Summer Place - Fountains of Wayne
Acela - Fountains of Wayne
Cemetery Guns - Fountains of Wayne

Buy the album, it's worth your $4 $8!

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