Adam Schlesinger is an industrious guy, what with running a record label with Smashing PumpkinsJames Iha and D'Arcy, playing bass in the buzz-band Ivy, writing the title song for the movie That Thing You Do. He obviously doesn't have the time or temperament for career missteps, and with Fountains of Wayne, he and guitarist/singer pal Chris Collingwood pursue their rock & roll fantasy with a premeditation that vaults pop science into the realm of pop scientology. For their debut release, the crafty duo draws on feel-good music theory as well as, I'm speculating, some covert data on commercial jingles that played while our pregnant mothers held us as in-utero captives in front of soothing TVs. The whole package is calculated, right down to the band's Converse low-tops--and baby, baby, bay-bee, it works.
With loopy percussion and hooks that ascend like a cheerleader pyramid, first single "Radiation Vibe" is a Steve Miller-esque inevitability. "You Curse at Girls" is a "Ricky Don't Lose that Number" for the junior-high set, and "Leave the Biker" scores as a buoyant lament bemoaning the loss of a girlfriend to the back of a chopper. As far as lyrics go, you savvy listeners who caught the wink in the Pumpkins's "crucify the insincere tonight/ celebrate the moments of your life" will surely decode here a "twenty-something's idea of a something-teen's concerns"; and folks who dig the Presidents's phonic experimentation will hear similar vocal clickity-clack.
Unfortunately, minus Corgan's indignation or Balew's imagination, these tricks come off at times as transparently tactical. It is when the influence of Schlesinger's other band seeps in that the record offers its most affecting moments. The gliding "Sick Day," an astonishingly lovely song that updates "Eleanor Rigby" with Ivy-league melody and atmospherics, may be reason itself to check out Fountains of Wayne. You'll be richer for it, and if all goes as planned, so will they.