Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fountains of Wayne

Traffic and Weather (2007)

This latest album does not push the brink of music experimentation or strain to recreate the band's 'sound' in the way that many bands seem to feel pressure to with every new release.

The music is the best sort of interesting, and very catchy like good pop music ought to be. The album as a whole pursues a coherency that makes me feel as though I've explored a corner of pop culture by the end of it.

Aptly titled Traffic and Weather (how silly that apt so rarely describes titles of contemporary albums of music), Fountains of Wayne construct numerous snapshots of romance taking place in the context of pop culture. For instance, and almost any randomly selected portion of lyrics would give perfect example:

"Seth Shapiro got his law degree/ he moved to Brooklyn from Schenectady, '93/ got some clients in the food industry/he says it's not the money it's the recipes/ he calls his mom, says he's doing fine/ she's go somebody on the other line/ puts Coldplay on, pours a glass of wine/ And curls up with a book about oranized crime..." Chorus: "When it's late, and it's hot, and a date with the late show is all that you got, don't give out, don't give up, one of these nights you might find someone to love."

I'm tempted to quote other equivalently colorful and quarky sections of lyrics, but it's better if you just buy the album for the rest.

The whole thing is upbeat and revolves around couples getting their luggage at the baggage claim, a man hitting on a DMV secretary, a '92 Suburu, etc.

I loved soaking up the contrast between a littering of pop culture icons, the slightest hint of cynicism that undercurrents our daily routined lives of constantly negotiating with materialism and the fantasy of television, and yet the retention of some amount of hope or ability to keep at least one of our feet in a more spiritual and irrational boat. Romance gives us the glimpse of that spiritual, irrational, and more exciting boat.

If Fountains of Wayne wrote the GRE and you saw "love is to pop culture like..." I suggest you fill in the "traffic is to weather" option. It's hard to talk about the first without having to concern yourself with the second. And yet, so few bands have brought the two into such close proximity without either over sentimentalizing love, or handing the listener only the most generic of pop culture.

In Traffic and Weather you get both at their most vital.

3 Comments:

Blogger Existere said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Existere said...

Very enjoyable...until I realized that these were the same guys that wrote, "stacy's mom has got it going on..." Mr. Nath, please say it isn't so.

11:49 PM  
Blogger james t nath said...

true that, true that. I'd have to buy their previous album to give you my educated opinion about their early attempts at pop-culture commentary... but from what I can remember... NPR first introduced me to stacy's mom gotting it going on, and I think there might be more to that song than our initial distaste for it would suggest.

This album, while not deeply true in the hopes it offers, still acknowledges candidly the mechanical and gut overriding intellect bind that current pop culture has got us into. At the same time they also enjoy current pop culture on a level that I think it's safe to enjoy it on. So... make what you will of that. They don't slog around depressed about the superficiality of pop culture, but they also recognize that those immersed in MUST be careful to reflect in order to tread in these superficial waters.

If you think of them as college frat boys singing in a band... you might miss some of the more subtle and more mature undertones that indicate deeper middle age reflection on their own lives in the pop culture they are now bequeething to their children.

And who's to say? Maybe stacy's mom really did have it going on... uh, I take that back, I'm probably not going to be able to win any argument down that road.

6:25 PM  

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