With previous releases Fountains of Wayne and Utopia Parkway, this quartet out of New England delivered a witty breath of fresh air to the stale world of pop that was being overshadowed by Nirvana and their followers. Fountains of Wayne had the mainstream formula down while keeping the sensibility of a rock band. However, it wasn't until 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers and the hit single Stacy's Mom that Fountains of Wayne got launched into mainstream radio play. If you're just getting into Fountains of Wayne, you'll most likely be expecting the one great, catchy single and 15 other half-assed attempts to recreate the same sound. If you're an old fan of Fountains of Wayne, you'll probably be expecting an album full of the classic pop-rock sound. In both cases, you'll be wrong. With every song on Welcome Interstate Managers, Fountains of Wayne tries every attempt at making a pop single, whether it's sickeningly witty country songs, slow ballads, or rocking guitar songs. The main similarity between Interstate Managers and the previous Fountains of Wayne albums is in the lyrics. Writing duo Adam Schlessinger (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Chris Collingwood (lead vocals, guitar) use every trick of the rhyming dictionary. The lyrics sound generic on a first listen, but on a second closer look prove to be very cleverly crafted verse-chorus pop songs.
Mexican Wine - 4/5
Mexican Wine is the song that barely saved Fountains of Wayne from becoming a one hit wonder. It certainly deserved more radio play then it got, but it's probably a good thing that this semi-hit wasn't sky-rocketed to the place in which Stacy's Mom was. Everything about this song is generic in the music, but still drills its way into your head like a good pop song should. The verses are clever rhymes about depressing world events, telling about a man whose cellular phone explosion causes his ashes to eventually become a spoke in the wheels of promotion, an elderly woman who's dependant on medication that gets left in the glove compartment of her car, and finally the lead singer's story of employment problems. The chorus then goes on to say that instead of getting depressed over world events, the narrator will instead get plastered from mexican liquor.
Bright Future in Sales - 4.5/5
This is definately the highlight of the album. This upbeat song about trying to rise out of a cubicle-slump is filled with catchy guitar riffs, clever lyrics, and a solo that sounds the least crafted out of all the other solos on the album.
Stacy's Mom - 3.5/5
Stacy's Mom is definately the most radio-friendly song out of the whole bunch. The stolen riff worked before by launching 80s pop group The Cars into stardom, so why shouldn't it work now? Although musically this sounds very much like Just What I Needed, lyrically it seems to be one of the many tips of the hat to 60s pop duo Simon and Garfunkel, specifically to Mrs. Robinson, the song from the late 60s film The Graduate. An early Dustin Hoffman sleeping with middle-aged Anne Bancroft worked for a 60s audience, but for an MTV programmed youth, Fountains of Wayne had to refine this image a bit. Having a middle school aged child star nobody's heard of drooling over model Rachel Hunter works for all of us. After all, pole-dancing in the middle of the kitchen is much more music video-friendly then a topless 50 year old seducing her daughter's boyfriend.
Hackensack - 3.5/5
Fountains of Wayne slows it down for this ballad to a childhood lover turned celebrity. The narrator of the song never amounted to anything, working in record stores in the small town of Hackensack. His old girlfriend, however, went on to L.A. to become famous. The fact that Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger wrote this on their mainstream debut doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's a fictional pop song so they can get away with it.
No Better Place - 3.5/5
This Beatlesque song takes the themes of the previous song and turns them around into a faster song featuring more electric guitar. The music is great, and the lyrics are cleverly rhymed, but the story doesn't seem like much of a story at all. It's about a friend who's left the narrator, but instead of making it big like in Hackensack, she (or he) ends up more miserable than before. It's a decent pop song and a good addition to the album.
Valley Winter Song - 4/5
In another song reflecting the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel, Fountains of Wayne combine the acoustic guitar and electric guitar sounds like they did in Hackensack for this ode to New England winter. It's partly a love song, it's partly reminescant, but it's mainly a good mellow song, and a great change from the rocking stuff of the earlier albums.
All Kinds of Time - 4/5
This acoustic/electric reflection on life makes philisophical observations in the midst of a professional football game. A rookie quarterback is in the middle of an important game when everything slows down to a reflective life-changing moment. This is definately one of the best songs on the album.
Little Red Light - 3/5
This generic pop-rock song fits into the same Fountains of Wayne formula, with lyrics about (suprise suprise) a yuppie trying to fix a broken relationship in the midst of his cluttered, hectic life. This time, it uses a clever chorus about the little red light that isn't blinking, signaling a relationship in which the girlfriend chooses to ignore him instead of take the time to pick up the phone and call.
Hey Julie - 3.5/5
Finally a song in which the girlfriend is actually THERE for the boyfriend. This song is much less depressing than the others. Even though everyone at work is taking advantage of him, his girlfriend is always there to rub his back. Backed up by a catchy pop riff, Hey Julie is one of the better generic songs on this album.
Hailey's Waitress - 3.5/5
This very 70s sounding R&B sounding pop song adds a bit of humor to the basic story of a man missing a woman in his life. Instead of wanting motherly advice or a backrub from his girlfriend, this man wants a cup of coffee. The verse talks about a waitress who just won't show up, finally building up to the chorus that could have come from a love ballad. "It's been so long, so long. Darling don't you know we miss you when you're gone?"
Hung up on You - 2/5
Collingwood and Schlesinger have the wit and the rhyme of the classic country writers, so why shouldn't they try to write a country song? Because it ends up sounding like a bad pop version of everything before it. Even with the help of pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, this song isn't catchy or interesting at all. The lyrics are slightly humerous, but they get very old after a while.
Fire Island - 3.5/5
This song is terrible. The lyrics are generic. The music is generic. It's not catchy. Nothing. But for some reason I love it! I've been trying not to let bias affect any of what I've been saying, but this is the one crappy song that I'll praise (I deserve at least one). This song is a generic ode to a house without parents. Dumb, but fun. It's that simple.
Peace and Love - 4/5
These guys aren't hippies, but why not let them have their fun. This is a fun, catchy, upbeat song about, well, peace and love. This shows more of their 60s/70s influence in a great catchy song. Definately a good song.
Bought For a Song - 3.5/5
This is another catchy, upbeat tune with a lot of classic pop influence, but the lyrics are a bit more depressing then silly. The lyrics are about traveling across the world getting drunk (that's how I interpreted it, correct me if I'm wrong). Overall a good song, though.
Supercollider - 3/5
This song is pretty good, but the lack of catchy hooks among songs chaulk-full of hooks can cause this song to get lost in the dust. It could definately be less than 5 minutes, but overall it's bearable.
Yours and Mine - 2.5/5
A somewhat generic, mellow closing to a somewhat generic, mellow album. Unfortunately, it dies out before it gets started.