Fountains of Wayne: Traffic and Weather

Fountains of Wayne
Traffic and Weather

Even as office life is consecrated in TV shows, movies, and fast-food commercials, Fountains of Wayne still provide the most quaint and sympathetic depiction of the nine-to-five. (Really, what phrase captures the ennui of a day-to-day routine like Traffic and Weather?) Tales of cubicle politics aren't required to understand the band's beloved drones; just look at how they spend their downtime. The Eleanor Rigbys on "Someone to Love" eschew human contact in favor of King of Queens reruns. Fountains of Wayne are at their kitschiest and sticking to their M.O.: chugging guitar riffs, arena-ready choruses, and laser-precision synths.

In a way, the band is stuck in a rut of its own. Chris Collingwood can still charm the pencil skirt off a DMV clerk simply by calling her out by name: Add "Yolanda Hayes" to his lonely-hearts club. And the band continues to walk the line between homage and rip-off when it comes to retro flair. (The flanging, whispery vocal effects on "Strapped for Cash" are too '70s-nostalgic for their own good.)

But sometimes the cookie-cutter songwriting works, despite the fact that we've heard it all before. While not their best token escape song, "New Routine" breaks loose from the dreary scenarios, sending its characters halfway around the world when life gets too stale. If that doesn't appease the office dweller, wistful ballad "I-95" paints life on the road as equally monotonous. Though 2005's B-sides collection Out-of-State Plates had more frequent and brighter highlights, thankfully none of Traffic and Weather's weaker tracks are nearly as awful as "Stacy's Mom"—not even the dopey (pun intended) "Planet of Weed."