on 25 April 2007
Well, I for one grinned when "92 Subaru" was just 20 seconds in and I'd heard all the elements that make power pop great! The influences are sometimes very clear; "Revolving Dora" sounds like a hifi-version of a Beatles-track from '66. I always had a soft spot for the acoustic FOW with the shimmering vocal harmonies and "Fire in the Canyon" and "Michael and Heather" don't disappoint!
I think this is going to be my 'summer-album' for this year; if you want perfect melodies, plenty of guitars, hooks and fine vocals; spend your money on this!
on 21 April 2007
Call off the race, album of the year is already here and it's not even the end of May. Hyperbole aside, this is stirring, fantastic stuff, and yet another gem from Fountains of Wayne - the seminal power pop band of the last 10 years, who represent all that is good about that particular genre. If you are familiar with any of their earlier albums, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect - perfect pop songs, choruses to die for, big guitars, and each song a perfectly detailed and observed story of everday people, and their everday concerns, be it pride in a newly bought car ("'92 Subaru"), falling for the girl working at the Motor Registry ("Yolanda Hayes") or owing money to some shady guy, who's come looking for payback ("Strapped For Cash")
This isn't rocket science - Fountains of Wayne have their formula but the beauty of it is that a) it's uncomplicated and works so well and b) they only release an album every four years or so, which leads me to an image of songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood working so hard to maintain quality control and refining the songs to the point that there is no excess or flab whatsoever, unlike say, someone like Ryan Adams, who, whilst fantastic at his very best, seemingly releases every single thing that he writes. Having mentioned the FOW formula, "Traffic and Weather" represents a subtle progression from 2003's "Welcome Interstate Managers" - for example the mechanical groove of the title track, the infusion of horns on "Strapped For Cash" or the woozy, spaced out "Revolving Dora". Also, in spite of it being a great album, "Welcome..." was too long, had a surfeit of slow songs and songs seemingly about teenagers. "Traffic and Weather" weighs in at a punchy 45 minutes, and the vast majority of the songs have adult concerns at their heart.
I can't recommend this album highly enough, and in the perfect world, FOW would be giant pop stars. But as long as they continue to churn out great albums like "Traffic and Weather", I'll take them any way I can, even if by my reckoning I'll have to wait until 2011 for the next chapter.
on 9 April 2007
Fountains Of Wayne may not be the most prolific band in the world (this is their 4th album in 10 years), but they always deliver quality material, and 'Traffic & Weather' is no exception. The sound on this album is a lot more streamlined and linear than on their last album 'Welcome Interstate Managers', and there is also less in the way of suprises than on previous albums (there's no musical side-steps like "Hailey's Waitress" or "Laser Show" for example). Instead we get a solid album of hook-laden, anthemic power pop that sounds like what a combination of Weezer and Crowded House would sound like...if both of those bands were actually any good *cough*. Lyrically F.O.W. are on top form here as well. They are one of the few bands who actually write songs about something other than the traditional love/heartache/remorse presets that most bands stick to. "Strapped For Cash" is about a guy being chased by the heavies for money he owes to someone..."Yolanda Hayes" seems to be about a girl who gets frustrated working behind a desk all day..."92 Subaru" is about a guy who buys what he thinks is the best car in the world... but it's the way they infuse these stories with brilliantly dry wit and knowingly corny pop-culture references that makes Fountains Of Wayne stand out lyrically from most other bands. Some highlights on 'Traffic & Weather' include the sublime opener "Someone To Love" (which features Melissa Auf De Mar on backng vocals), an immaculate recreation of 'Rubber Soul'-era Beatles crossed with The Byrds ("Revolving Dora"), the almost new-wave style drone rock of the title track, and the mock-hippie campfire singalong "Planet Of Weed". There are a couple of minor criticisms however (hence 4 stars and not 5): (a) even though it's a good song, "Fire In The Canyon" is a really just a blatant re-write of "Valley Winter Song" from the last album. (b) as mentioned already, the musical variation is much more limited on this album than before (even though one track features the most criminally under-used instrument ever: the zither). And (c) "Hotel Majestic" and "New Routine" are a little too F.O.W.-by-numbers compared with the rest of the songs....but none of this is anywhere near enough to suggest that you don't go out and purchase this album immediately. This band's lack of sales considering how good they are is baffling, and there probably won't be a better conventional pop album released this year.
on 12 May 2007
In the space of a few years FOW have emerged as the undoubted modern kings of powerpop land. Their way of creating catchy, yet subtle melodies with wit and insight has captivated audiences around the world.
So onto Traffic and Weather, the bands 4th full studio release. It's always going to be hard not to compare this to their older work as it doesn't really break any new ground. This is no bad thing, as long as the songs are good. Opening track and single Someone to Love is everything the band are good at encapsulated in 3 minutes. The funny lyrics, the catchy hooks and great harmonies from the wonderful Melissa Auf Der Maur set things off in great style.
92 Subaru is another typically upbeat pop number, however the album runs into a bit of trouble fairly early on. The next few tracks don't exactly set the world alight, the writing isn't as fluid as before and when the misfiring is over we're up to track 8. Fortnatley there are some magnificent songs like Michael and Heather and Strapped for Cash lurking, proving that when they turn on the style, they really are unmatchable.
In summing up, there is some value here and it's by no means a bad record, and it certainly has it moments. It is only really hindered by the sheer quality of what came before it.
I'm a little biased, as I place people in three camps: those who love Fountains of Wayne, those who like Fountains of Wayne, and those who have not heard of Foutains of Wayne.
This is the fourth studio album, and follows the B side compilation album, Out Of State Plates, which is pretty good in that "B sides that are occasionally inspirational, occasionally weird" way.
The first instinct is that this is more of the same, which for me is a good thing. Fountains of Wayne take banal situations and turn them into love stories (e.g. Yolanda Hayes), as well as bringing an occasional smile to the listener with their ear for a tune and turn of phrase.
"Fire in the Canyon" seems to be the band's obligatory Country moment, and 92 Subaru is power pop of the sublime and ridiculous. Who has the idea of writing about a Late 92 Baby Blue Subaru?
The album is a good length, the songs are all less than 4 minutes long, there is no self indulgence here. Other reviews suggest there is a lack of identity behind this album, but that could be said of a lot of bands. This is uplifting power pop at its foot tapping best.
The previous 'Welcome Interstate Managers' was an outstanding album (that I happened to discover by chance), and cynics may say this is more of the same, but the truth is it's perfect pop- strong melodies, clever lyrics, great rhythms, well conceived arrangements and polished production -that ensure FOW stand head and shoulders above much of today's mediocre pop and rock with this new album.
Why this group aren't bigger than they are amazes me. Every track is a winner and I can't recommend this album enough. Others here have suggested it is their album of the summer. I'd agree. And perfect 'road music'. So crank it up!
on 8 April 2007
Can't get this baby off my CD player. What an amazing collection of songs that don't quit! I haven't been this thrilled with an album in a long time. Fans of the following artists and albums should buy Traffic and Weather at once: Owsley (first album), Nik Kershaw (15 Minutes, To Be Frank, Youäve Got to Laugh albums), Earlimart, Ambulance Ltd, Shins, Clouds, Pearlfishers, Martin Briley (Fear of the Unknown album), Youth Group, Clearlake, Milk and Honey Band and oh yes, The Beatles. Essential addictive melodic brilliance!
on 17 June 2007
I'll just start by saying: "I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!". It's not very often that I come across an album that after first listen, I'm compelled to play it all over again! It's THAT good. It's Fountain of Wayne's masterpiece, a work of art. I've always been a casual fan of FOW and I thought that their last album was good but not great. "Traffic & Weather" however is simply superb - the sound of a band at the top of their game.
Every single track is a work of songwriting genius - from the power-pop opener Someone To Love, through to the Beatle-esque Yolanda Hayes and Revolving Dora, the country-tinged Fire In The Canyon, the infectiously catchy Strapped For Cash (surely the next single?) through to the perfect pop of New Routine. There's not a filler or a duff track in sight. If you like the new single Someone To Love (which has been thankfully given decent airtime on the radio) and you're reading this wondering whether to invest in the album.........please, just buy it! : I promise you, you will NOT be disappointed!! It's excellent.
Quite simply, the best album I have bought in the last 5 - 10 years (and the soundtrack to my Summer 2007). Highly recommended.
on 19 February 2008
The 'Stacey's Mum' guys finally hit their radio friendly stride with Traffic & Weather, releasing a record filled with intelligent Cheap-Trick like pop rockers and delicate ballads.
'Yolanda Hayes', 'Someone To Love' and '92 Subaru' tackle unusual themes (waiting in line, nerd love and classic cars respectively) and turns them into pop gold. 'Fire In The Canyon' is a lovely throwaway country strummer and 'Revolving Dora' a catchy, breezy Monkees/Beatles hybrid. Lyrically the songs veer from the bizarre to the sublime - 'Strapped For Cash' is mirth inducing cartoon rock, 'Micheal & Heather' a woozy harmony laden beauty and 'I92' is simply a gorgeous and fully realised ballad.
The Fountains Of Wayne are still in-thrall to their hero's - Beatles, Squeeze and ELO - but never fall into the trap of pastiche. It may not possess the inventiveness of Welcome Interstate Managers but Traffic & Weather is probably the bands most instant and consistent release to date. The current kings of intelligent harmony driven American pop/rock.
on 5 August 2010
Yet more Beach Boys/Beatlesque power-pop from Adam Schlesinger (bass) and Chris Collingwood (vocals) exploring the minutiae of everyday life, replete with catchy hooks, infectious choruses. Add in some Country, electro & Mariachi and cast of characters from familiar locations like motorway service stations, baggage claim and TV and we have another winner. Perhaps not quite as ace as the previous 2 but with tracks like 92 Subaru (drops straight into a killer riff and tells the story of an over enthusiastic new car owner) and Strapped For Cash (how many excuses can he come up with to justify another loan, all 80's pop and delightful), its worth the price for them alone, and the rest aint bad either.