But, oh, what a beginning! The first six tracks (‘Mexican Wine,’ ‘Bright Future in Sales,’ ‘Stacy’s Mom,’ ‘Hackensack,’ ‘No Better Place’ and ‘Valley Winter Song’) make up one of the greatest runs I’ve ever heard. Smart, hooky power pop peppered with a couple of melancholy ballads, that stretch is a display of pure songwriting genius by Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger.
This is a great album to give anyone looking for an introduction to the band. From great power pop (‘Stacy’s Mom,’ ‘Bright Future in Sales,’ today’s SOTD) to beautiful acoustic tracks (‘Hackensack,’ ‘Valley Winter Song’) to charming love songs (‘Hey Julie’), this album serves up a little bit of everything.
My final one-hit wonder is a painful choice. I adore so much of Fountains of Wayne’s music that I hate to think of them being relegated to the dustbin of history, remembered for their only hit song, ‘Stacy’s Mom.’
And here’s the real kick in the pants: ‘Stacy’s Mom’ wasn’t even that big of a hit. It peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached #3 on the Pop chart. Nothing else the band released ever came close to chart success.
If I had to name Fountains of Wayne’s best album, I’d be torn between Utopia Parkway and 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers. Utopia Parkway is a more focused and consistent album, but many of the songs on Welcome Interstate Managers are the band’s best yet.
Managers is one of those cases, more prevalent these days it seems, of an album where less is more. It is a really good album at 16 songs. At 12 it would be amazing. The first six songs fly by in a burst of creativity and craftsmanship but things start to fall apart a few songs after that. Everything here is good but they needed an editor. Of course, in the MP3 era we can all be editors, and it’s easy enough to re-sequence the album as an iTunes playlist.
I interrupt the previously scheduled Elvis Costello appreciation to bring you a week of unrelated songs. I figure I’ll give a break to the non-Costello fans in the audience (what’s wrong with you people?) and come back to him next week.
A couple of weeks back I featured a group of “happy” songs that were purposefully shallow and innocuous. But I didn’t mean to imply that I find no value in light songs. On the contrary, a well-written upbeat pop song can be the best thing in the world. And today’s song is perhaps the ultimate example.