Rewind Review: Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather (2007)

Fountains of Wayne (Chris Collingwood – lead vocals, guitar, banjo, Jody Porter – guitar, vocals, Adam Schlesinger – bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, Brian Young – drums, percussion) are perhaps the most clever songsmiths you might not have heard (or realized you’ve heard, as they’ve had multiple hit songs) and make great rock that salutes the Average Joe and Jane. Traffic and Weather is no exception.

Starting off with “Someone to Love,” the band gives a hopeful ode to those of us who “should be out on the scene” Thursday nights, but are instead “sitting at home watching The King of Queens.” They encourage us not to give up on finding someone to get us out of our funk. “’92 Subaru” is one of the great “Average Joe is actually a bad ass” songs that Fountains of Wayne do so well. It’s about a guy who buys said lame car, but has full confidence he’ll be able to trick it out and score more ass than a plush chair. It also has a nice solo from Jody Porter.

“Yolanda Hayes” is about Collingwood trying to score a date with an Average Jane woman who works a miserable job at the DMV. The title track is a crisp yet crunchy rocker about local news anchors confessing their love and lust for each other on live air. Schlesinger’s weird synths make this track bridge the gap between new wave and power pop.

“Fire in the Canyon” brings in some country music flair, which is no surprise since Collingwood has written songs for country artists. “This Better Be Good” has Collingwood confronting an ex-girlfriend about her choice in a new guy (“I saw you holding hands with some guy wearing light blue Dockers pants, and I thought I might just give you a chance to explain what the hell is in your brain.”). He turns the question back on himself with “Revolving Dora,” in which he confesses he’s smitten with a girl who might be off her rocker. The addition of Schlesinger’s piano is a nice touch to it.

“Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim” is a sweet song about two lovers at the end of a rough trip and realizing that not even such a misadventure and lost baggage can defeat their care for each other. The vocals get synthesized and funny on “Strapped for Cash,” in which Collingwood sings about owing a guy fresh out of prison a large amount of money and failing at every turn to avoid him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “I-95” was inspired by the band touring the U.S., as a good part of it involves the description of an amazing truck stop, but the song is about a determined lover who will make a nine-hour drive behind a slow-moving van just to see his girl. “The Hotel Majestic” was probably a place the band played while touring, and it’s a catchy song to boot (love those handclaps!). “Planet of Weed” is a fun poke at stoners and probably on thousands of mix tapes in Colorado by now.

“New Routine” is about people crave excitement and not realizing their drudgery might be inspiring others to break out of their own ruts. “Seatbacks and Traytables” is another countrified track about long tours and mistaking one town for another over the course of the long haul.

\You’ll like this record if you like power pop and witty songwriting. Fountains of Wayne are one of those bands that should be in your collection. You’ll wonder what took you so long.

Keep your mind open.

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Nik Havert

I’ve been a music fan since my parents gave me a record player for Christmas when I was still in grade school. The first record I remember owning was “Sesame Street Disco.” I’ve been a professional writer since 2004, but writing long before that. My first published work was in a middle school literary magazine and was a story about a zoo in which the animals could talk.

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