Thu August 18, 2011
Song Of The Day

Fountains Of Wayne: A Song For Luckless Suckers

Originally published on Thu August 18, 2011 9:33 am

Fountains of Wayne's airtight power-pop formulas have been picked apart to tremendous effect — if you haven't already heard it, track down Robbie Fulks' brilliant "Fountains of Wayne Hotline" — but the band's most instantly recognizable characteristic is its gift for summing up the lives of luckless strivers, defeated dreamers, and the otherwise unfulfilled. The characters singer Chris Collingwood inhabits in the new Sky Full of Holes may be living some variation on the American dream (riding the Acela train, raising a family, visiting a summer home), but as the band chimes merrily around them, they still dream of what they can never have.

Even surrounded by sharp slices of life, "Richie and Ruben" stands out, as Collingwood tells the story of two shady businessmen whose harebrained enterprises implode in the amount of time it takes a stack of money to blow away. The titular shysters' failures are explained in concise but vivid detail — "They bought a velvet rope and the doorman laughed / They got robbed blind by half the waitstaff" — with humor never overshadowing how familiar these doomed businesses sound. (Who hasn't walked by an absurdly overpriced clothing store and wondered how on earth the rent was supposed to get paid?)

One of Sky Full of Holes' strongest features — especially in the wake of its predecessor, 2007's jokey and largely unsatisfying Traffic and Weather — lies in the way songwriters Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger maintain a degree of affection for their characters. Richie and Ruben themselves may be "a little out of their minds," but Fountains of Wayne's real target is the song's narrator, who's been sinking money into their schemes since the seventh grade. That little detail may land like a punchline, but the plausibility of it still stings.

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