Tag Archives: Adam Schlesinger

Fountains Of Wayne is Back!

Pop lovers rejoice…FOW is back!

Fountains of Wayne are now aligned with Yep Roc Records artists, readying their fifth full-length LP titled Sky Full Of Holes, due for release this summer. The first single is online and available to stream or download (free!).

From the website: “Richie & Ruben” leads the charge, a sunny, character-driven jangle-pop track about a pair of inept knuckleheads with a talent for blowing seed money on questionable enterprises (a bar called Living Hell, a fashion boutique with a kid from FIT who lied about graduating).

Click here to stream the single

You can sign up to FOW’s list through email or Facebook to get a free download.

Sounds like another classic chestnut to me. I cannot wait to hear the whole album, and I’m especially geeked that they are on Yep Roc – a label that has proven time and time again that they are artist-friendly and audience-aware.

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New Album! Fountains of Wayne

First Rate show in the Second City

First Rate show in the Second City

I often engage in discussions with other writers on a wide array of topics. Among the pedantic exercises that such people joust about are lists – the ten best this, the three things that, ad infinitum. One of the more challenging questions raised has been which bands have come right out of the chute with a string of killer albums, and when does the slack usually begin to show? In other words, a band whose first album was killer, and then the sophomore slump was avoided, and then it kept on for a bit. And we’re talking albums, not a repackaging of singles in a twelve-inch format (sorry, Beatles!), and in truth the conversation was concerned more with post-60s artists (sorry, Neil Young). Sure, the Police and REM and U2 are supremely popular, but did they really strike gold immediately, then consistently? Even Bruce Springsteen has people on both sides of the fence. When the conversation eventually focused on the last 25 years, the field thinned dramatically.

But even when you go back to the dawn of rock, the magic number seems to be three, maybe four albums at best. We all know the adage that an artist has their whole life to write their first album, and…well, it used to be six months to create their second, but now it’s more like three years. Whatever. Many artists has solid runs but after an unspectacular debut. Some never even got to four albums before imploding. Seems like the majority might have gotten a great two and then hit a speed bump, temporary or otherwise.

Everyone has a personal favorite, of course – you won’t talk a card-carrying Nickleback fan out of arguing to the death that their mulleted posers haven’t recorded a wrong note. Ever. Which is why these things are best done in consensus, lest the water of truly worthy get diluted with the emotions of the moment. You know, like the IMDB list of the greatest films of all time, an inordinate amount which have apparently been released in the past twenty years, some as recently as this month. More whatever.

Which brings me to the subjects at hand – Fountains of Wayne. Maybe the most consistent career-opening salvo since Elvis Costello, in my book. Literate, funny, poignant, incredibly catchy and just off the beaten path enough to avoid the mainstream (“Stacy’s Mom” excepted, of course) but real masters of songcraft, harmony and…well, art. Go listen to their albums if you don’t believe me.

They’ve long had a reputation for being slightly more exciting than moist toast in concert, despite the nature of their music, and I have witnessed some clips that attest to nervousness at best and indifference or boredom at worst. But this 2005 live recording, now available on DVD from Shout, really changed my mind. And the bonus recordings!  These stripped down recent studio sessions (as a trio) where they are tracking the songs live – no overdubs – are wonderful. No matter what Robbie Fulks thinks.

Check out my full review in Blurt Online.

FOW wiki.

That killer 1-2-3-4 punch.

They've got a flair.

They've got a flair.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

After writing about The Boat That Rocked the other day, I thought about other music-related movies that I really enjoyed and found that I had several favorites that I could watch over and over again and enjoy almost as much as the first time. These aren’t concert films – those are obvious repeat performers – but movies about pop music. I’m also focusing on the more modern era (forgive me, Sal Mineo). Plus the movie has to be good (sorry, Tommy) . A few are obvious commercial favorites (is there anyone who doesn’t quote Spinal Tap?) but a couple of these must be off the path; I find most people have never heard of them, let alone seen them.

But hey, that’s a large part of why I do this, to share information about what knocks me out and hopefully expose people to a great band, film or book they might have missed. I highly recommend every single one of these, and hopefully there’s at least one you haven’t seen that you will take a chance on. Enjoy some great movies with great music, whether it’s a library rental, a used copy on Amazon or circling the listing in TV Guide when you see it. Without further ado (you’ve had just the right amount of ado so far, right?) and with apologies to The Committments and The Rutles, here they are in alphabetical order…

Almost Famous : Cameron Crowe drew upon his own story to craft this brilliant peek behind rock’s curtain, from the groupies (sorry…Band-Aids) to the roadies and the madness that is rock’n’roll. Great music and wonderful performances from the leads and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great turn as Lester Bangs.

A Hard Day’s Night : The Beatles. Need I say more? “I’m a Mocker”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch : Absolutely the best rock opera ever. John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant performance and Stephen Trask’s music are a perfect match, and both the musical and the movie soundtracks could stand on their own as great music. But the film is phenomenal.

The Idolmaker : Ray Sharkey should have won the Academy Award for his performance as a teen idol Svengali. Great performances from Paul Land, Joe Pantoliano and Peter Gallagher.

A Mighty Wind : The Spinal Tap of folk music and another perfect movie from Christopher Guest. Tremendous performances from everyone, but Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as “Mitch and Mickey” were brilliant. How did this song not win the Academy Award?

Rock and Roll High School : The Ramones. Need I say more? “Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of high school”.

Spinal Tap : Absolutely hilarious, with pitch perfect performances from the three leads and an amazing array of bit parts and cameo roles, like Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin and Bruno Kirby as the Sinatra-loving limo driver (the extended deleted scenes are priceless). Here’s a song so good I like it even though it’s parody.

Still Crazy : I think the common thread in all these movies is perfect casting. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the fragile lead singer and you can’t go wrong with comic geniuses Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall. But the story is as heartwarming as it is funny and the music is phenomenal.

That Thing You Do : Tom Hanks nailed the screenplay about a one-hit-wonder band and even wrote many of the songs that the other acts in the “galaxy of stars” performed. The main songs benefitted from pop wizards like Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Mike Viola, but the perfect casting was only exceeded by the movie’s heart. One of my favorite films of all time in any genre.

Velvet Goldmine : Glam fans will lap this up – an Eddie and The Cruisers type plot in the world of glitter and decadence, with Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as thinly disguised Iggy Pop and David Bowie plus great performances from Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard.

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NEW ALBUM! Tinted Windows

Pure Pop for Then People

Pure Pop for Then People

I’m going to lay my cards on the table right up front, so if you want to be one of the snarky majority you can click away now. Because I’m here to tell you that Tinted Windows – the self-titled album from Bun E. Carlos, Adam Schlesinger, Taylor Hanson and James Iha – is the best pop record anyone has released to date in 2009.

(Waits for snarky people to laugh…or leave…)

Sample this, mofos.

This album rockets right out of the box with “Kind of a Girl” and doesn’t let up, which is no surprise considering Fountain of Wayne‘s Adam Schlesinger wrote the first four tracks (and seven of the eleven songs overall – eight if you count the co-write with Hanson). “Kind of a Girl” is jukebox glory; it has the big hooks, the octave choruses, the machine gun drums and Hanson’s best Robin Zander impression. Like a few songs on the album, it’s reminiscent of Cheap Trick‘s landmark In Color album (look no further than the ‘c’mon c’mon’ within “Messing With My Head”, another single in waiting). Adam’s second best contribution is the rocking “We Got Something”, which hopefully follows “Kind of a Girl” out of the chute as a single. It’s classic 70s powerpop with a more muscular mix.

But the killer single here might be track 3, the power ballad “Dead Serious” – I don’t think I’ve heard a better radio song all year. It is a monster. You give this track to any American Idol contestant, any young pop star being marketed to the melodic pop crowd…hell, any country-pop female from Kelly Clarkson to Shania Twain and they could top the charts with it. It’s that simple. It’s that infectious. It’s that perfect. But the industry isn’t going to let a man band run with this, even if the lead singer is as close to a teenybop idol as the rock world has at the moment.

“Dead Serious” live at SXSW.

James Iha adds a hooky mid-tempo “Back With You” (Bryan Adams would top the charts with this) along with the riff rocker “Cha Cha”(if The Sweet reunites, this is a natural). Hanson’s two efforts are solid pop as well; “Nothing To Me” again sounds like a Big Star track ghostwritten for Zander, and the co-write with Schelsinger (“Take Me Back”) is classic stutter-stop power-pop, complete with those ooh-ooh-ooh choruses that make girls swoon. Bubblegum pop so sticky sweet that you’ll need to wipe your hands after listening…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But despite all of the above, this album and band/project (whichever it turns out to be) will ultimately fall a bit short. Why? Because there is no market for power-pop. Every one of these tracks would sound just fine blasting from the radio, especially in summer, but the likelihood of that peaked thirty to forty years ago. Powerpop doesn’t have a fan fest. Powerpop doesn’t have a video channel. Powerpop doesn’t go well with skateboards and hoodies.

You could give these songs to Pink and she’d make an album that would sell millions with minimal changes to the arrangements. Shania would have Mutt country-punch the production and she’d revive her career. Britney Spears could even have her people douse these songs in beats, ridiculous echo and synth programming and hire forty dancers…but if she cut these songs people would take her seriously again.

But any of those people – and more – would probably just fuck it up anyway. Instead we have the right men for the job, albeit at the wrong time. It’s too bubblegum for Cheap Trick. It’s too consistently rocking for Hanson. It’s too lyrically adolescant for Fountains of Wayne. And as far as Smashing Pumpkins…well, it doesn’t suck.

But whoever cobbled this foursome together hit the bullseye – a great songwriter, a classic pop drummer, a chunking power chord guitarist and a cherubic vocalist. They sound like they’re having a blast and most importantly they play to their strengths. Iha proved on his solo album that he’s not a front man, but he has chops; likewise Schlesinger knows these songs are more about hooks than message and need to be sung by a younger, more enthusiastic pop star. Carlos, as always, is a rock solid foundation. They released a great album. Hopefully the lads will look in the tinted mirror and tell themselves  “We Got Something”.

All those bad reviews are missing the whole point. They are wrong. I am right.

But stop reading and let your ears decide.

 Live version of “Cha Cha”

Live version of “We Got Something”

Video for “Kind of a Girl”

Video for “Messing With My Head”

NOT Tinted Windows.

Frankenstein project, monster hits.
Frankenstein project, monster hits.

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