- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

Fountains of Wayne Traffic and Weather Virgin Records

As much as any band, Fountains of Wayne loves to sing “yeah yeah yeah.” It’s how the musicians get there that makes them unique. Songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood share a great gift for matching kinetic — and effortlessly catchy — music with strange, oddly specific and carefully characterized tales of peculiarly American anomie.

Despite their off-kilter subject matter, Fountains of Wayne can only write hits. If songs happen not to hit the charts, it is not the band’s fault — there’s not enough room at the top of the pops for every irresistible toe-tapping three-minute gem.

That is not to say the songwriting work of Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Collingwood is unknown to listeners outside the rarefied precincts of midsize rock clubs and free-form radio. The two have contributed songs to movies, including “That Thing You Do,” “Music and Lyrics” and the seminal “Josie and the Pussycats.” Their most popular song, “Stacy’s Mom,” almost cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Top 100 and got some aural ubiquity as the soundtrack to a commercial for Dr. Pepper.

“Yolanda Hayes” could be the sleeper hit on “Traffic and Weather.” The song’s title character is a Department of Motor Vehicles bureaucrat ruling her roost from “behind window B.” As the line stalls, the singer begins to wonder what Miss Hayes is like when she’s off duty. An airy chorus swells, “Who can you trust with your love these days?” The answer, of course: “Yolanda Hayes.”

Lyrically, the band is in top form. The song “New Routine,” about new beginnings, manages to rhyme “Mineola” with “diet cola” and “diesel Mercedes” with “feeble with the ladies.”

The cuckold’s lament, “This Better Be Good,” ends with the refrain, “Your half-baked alibi’s so full of holes/I think you might want to stop/In at the donut shop/They might buy it/I sure won’t.”

The song ” ‘92 Subaru” is as entertaining an ode to a junk car as anything since Jonathan Richman’s “Dodge Veg-O-Matic.” “I-95” is a glumly sweet paean to the long-distance East Coast romance that is notable for local listeners if only because of its rhyme of “gasoline” and “Aberdeen.”

The songs tend to be upbeat, relying on Mr. Collingwood’s soft, sweet vocal lines, which often are interlaced with choruses sung in harmony by Mr. Schlesinger and guitarist Jody Porter. Nevertheless, they’re not afraid to cross genres with their instrumentation. “Fire in the Canyon” features the twang of the pedal steel guitar. “Planet of Weed” incorporates grotesquely exaggerated wah-wah effects to underscore its anti-stoner message.

The title track is a guitar-heavy song about a budding love affair behind a news desk that name-checks a pair of well-known New York City television anchors. Weirdly, it displays the kind of gritty, menacing pulse that characterized Don Henley’s solo work.

Though it’s not likely that “Traffic and Weather” will yield a pop-cultural lightning strike as memorable as “Stacy’s Mom,” it’s a solid follow to the 2003 album “Welcome Interstate Managers.”

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