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Fountains Of Wayne
Sky Full Of Holes Julian Marszalek , August 8th, 2011 09:22

As evidenced by the red-raw rock & roll of The Jim Jones Revue, the priapic and shredded outpourings of Grinderman and the ongoing metaphysical and cosmic exploration of The Flaming Lips (and let's face it, there are many more examples to choose from), middle age isn't an automatic shoe in for the stereotypical image of pipes, slippers and a cosy Saturday night in front of the telly. For sure, the parameters of rock & roll have shifted to such a degree that it's quite possible that anyone under the age of 30 shouldn't be trusted rather than the ol' vice-versa adage.

Shame that no one seems to have told Fountains Of Wayne. Over the course of the last 15 years, Fountains Of Wayne have been the pre-eminent chroniclers of the lives of everyday people in the Tri-State area. Set against a backdrop of shopping malls suburban neighbourhoods, high schools, commuting and any number of aspects concerned with the seemingly mundane minutiae of the people trying make some sense and take some meaning from their lives, the band's innate skill and intimate relationship with a melody marked the songwriting partnership of singer-guitarist Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger as the area's answer to Ray Davies.

Their previous sympathetic characterisations of salesmen ('Bright Future In Sales'), football players ('All Kinds of Time') and secretaries ('Sick Day') among many others has here been replaced by an over-riding sense of sentimentality as if they're pining for their own lost opportunities as much as the portraits that they're painting. Here, the 40-year-old divorcee attempts to reclaim a misspent youth by dropping mushrooms on 'The Summer Place' while the fruitless attempts of opening a bar by the eponymous protagonists of 'Richie And Ruben' come to nought. Similarly, there's a difficulty in empathising with central character of 'Action Hero' who feels his life sliding away from what could have been into the crushing inevitability of mortality.

The mood is reflected in the music throughout. Part of what made Fountains Of Wayne so appealing in the first place was the dynamic power pop that coloured their lyrical concerns but the journey they lead us through here is soundtracked by an over-reliance of acoustic guitars that only serves to bring the proceedings down. 'Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart' goes some way to harking back to their former glories but moments like these are in all too short supply.

Ultimately, Sky Full Of Fulls remains an anomaly among a fine body of work and for the first time Fountains Of Wayne sound as disappointing as the lives they're taking inspiration from.

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