Fountains Of Wayne was Brooklyn before that borough was hip. Overeducated boys playing thin music revered by critics ignored by the mainstream until…
Not that that meant anybody would care thereafter. But it does ensure that people born around 1990 and before will always remember them.
And “Stacy’s Mom” is kind of like 10cc’s “The Things We Do For Love,” a tribute to a sound done so well that those not informed put it down as an irrelevant trifle, when both are exquisite exercises in irony that titillate insiders who were there at the time of the originals and get the joke. Yes, “Stacy’s Mom” was a gigantic hit, rocketed into consciousness by a video starring Rachel Hunter, but divorce the song from the images and…if you don’t crack up, you’ve got no sense of humor.
The crunchy intro segues into an almost sotto voce recitation of the chorus… These are guys who studied the Beatles and know the most memorable tracks come from capitulating to the form, yet twisting it to tempt those who never thought to look at the world any different. More than one Beatles song began with the chorus and so many had great bridges and too often the modern Brooklyn acts put the format out to pasture and end up with something far from infectious…whereas “Stacy’s Mom” is reminiscent of what came before, yet is still somehow unique. It’s no crime to be able to sing, it’s no crime to be able to play your instrument, the basics always come in handy, and Fountains Of Wayne have all the bases covered.
Did your mom get back
From her business trip
This modern reference is so endearing. Back in the sixties, most moms didn’t work. But today, women not only make up a significant part of the workforce, oftentimes they’re the family’s main breadwinner. This is an executive, she was on a trip. She’s much more than Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Stacy do you remember
When I mowed your lawn
Your mom came out
With just a towel on
I could tell she liked me
From the way she stared
And the way she said
‘You missed a spot over there’
It’s not only teenagers, all men play these mental games, have these delusions, they interpret every gesture and non-gesture, expression and non-expression. And the confidence! Scratch America’s surface and you’ll find most men believe they could screw Jennifer Aniston. Delusion is a way of life!
And “Stacy’s Mom” is on “Welcome Interstate Managers,” Fountains Of Wayne’s 2003 album that is one of those secret records that old males love so much, they feel it’s made just for them, music made by nerds for nerds. And we love it!
And if you look good in the club, if you like a beat, “Welcome Interstate Managers” is not for you.
But if you remember staying home dateless in high school, reading Kurt Vonnegut, dreaming of a better life, you’ll love it!
And “Stacy’s Mom” is fantastic.
But it’s not my favorite cut on the album. That would be “Peace And Love.”
Riding around in a Volkswagen van
Thinking ’bout the people upside-down in Japan
Staring at the stars in a distant galaxy
Wondering if there’s someone out there staring back at me singing…
Ha! You might be too old to remember Volkswagen vans, which were the official vehicles of the hippies, even David Crosby, they persisted through the seventies, even when you could buy a higher powered, better handling van at an even lower price…it’s what they stood for, kind of like long hair.
As for thinking about the people in Japan…isn’t that what we were gonna find if we just dug deep enough in the backyard?
And did you ever freak yourself out thinking about the universe being infinite?
Lying on the floor just playing my guitar
Trying to find the chords for ‘Just The Way You Are’
We dropped the needle on our vinyl records, figuring out the chords. And the fact that he’s singing about the cheesy Billy Joel song just cracks you up, because he’s not cool!
Sometimes I think I might just move up to Vermont
Open a bookstore or a vegan restaurant
Hilarious! For someone who went to college in Vermont…they nail it! The granola people. Living below their station. Back to the land.
The whole song is sung tongue in cheek. But the lyrics are secondary to the groove. They lock into it and after you hear “Peace And Love” a couple of times, you’ve got to hear it a couple of times more, and then more…kinda like Alanis Morissette’s “Hand In Pocket.”
Then there’s “Supercollider,” which sounds like an imitation of Oasis which is an imitation of the Beatles and that sixties sound. Still, it works. Because that sound is not of this earth, and neither is “Supercollider.” It’s a drug trip, no LSD required. Listening to it you can leave the world behind, it all fades to black as you live your own personal movie.
“Fire Island” is one of those tracks that is so schmaltzy, you skip over it and then one day the album plays through, you catch a few of the lyrics and you..crack up. Yes, it’s ostensibly about that period of adolescence where you’re finally breaking free from your parents, when you throw a party while they’re away, but what truly makes it is…
Don’t you remember
When you went to Steamboat Springs
Coaches always tell you to make your music universal. That’s hogwash. It’s the specifics that hook us. Some kids try to deny their heritage, imitate those below or above themselves. But here Fountains Of Wayne are being positively middle class, just the way they are. There’s no boasting, just honesty, owning who they are, it’s so refreshing.
“All Kinds Of Time” is positively inspiring, without being so inscrutable that you cannot connect with it. It’s about that moment of reflection, when the world stops and you get to think. Everybody’s such a winner today, so on it, thinking is passe.
He takes a step back
He’s under attack
But he knows that no one can touch him now
He seems so at ease
A stranger inner peace
Is all that he’s feeling somehow
It’s like a sci-fi movie, where everybody else is frozen in time and you get to slow down and contemplate your moves and marinate in your mood. Don’t you sometimes want to stop? Sometimes you do, and it feels just like this track.
I’ve written about “Valley Winter Song” before. Still, check it out again. It’s the chorus that hooks you.
And the snow is coming down
On our New England town
And it’s been falling all day long
That’s one thing I hate about Los Angeles, the inability to stay inside, play board games, be removed from the world because the weather precludes exiting. It’s quiet. It’s special. Just you and your thoughts and whoever is locked inside with you. It’s a respite.
And then there’s “Hackensack.”
I used to know you when we were young
You were in all my dreams
We sat together in period one
Fridays at 8:15
Do you surf the Net looking for those you once knew? It’s so utterly fascinating. They’re frozen in time. You remember them. Where and what are they up to today? Some you barely ever talked to, but knew intimately, because your name came right after theirs in the alphabet, because you shared the same home room.
Now I see your face in the strangest places
Movies and magazines
I saw you talkin’ to Christopher Walken
On my TV screen
Only one person from my high school was ever famous, Linda Kozlowski, from “Crocodile Dundee,” the one who married Paul Hogan. Long after my time John Mayer went to Warde, and Richard Belzer long before, but I never turn on my TV set and say “I went to school with him (or her!)” Ditto college. Middlebury is small. And everybody was not searching for fame, but playing it safe. They became doctors and lawyers, teachers and executives, no one was famous. Although I did turn on my TV and see my old classmate Jeanne Meserve on CNN, that was pretty weird, I never thought she was TV material, but you never know what’s inside, who someone is destined to become. But my point is that yearning to connect with someone who’s left me, gone beyond me, it’s never happened. Meg Ryan grew up in my town, but she did not go to my school, now that would be pretty weird if I knew her, but I don’t.
As for the rhyme about Christopher Walken, it’s cute, it’s showing off, but it still hits the spot, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Just like in the world at large, in music it’s cool to be dumb. But Fountains Of Wayne are not.
I used to work in a record store
Now I work for my dad
Scraping the paint off of hardwood floors
The hours are pretty bad
Positively heartbreaking! Giving up, doing what’s expedient. I never ever contemplated staying in Fairfield, Connecticut, never mind becoming a real estate appraiser like my dad. My whole life has been about escaping drudgery. It may not have been lucrative, but it’s rarely been boring. I’ve had a couple of jobs where I stared at the clock. I died inside.
Sometimes I wonder where you are
Probably in L.A.
That seems to be where everybody else ends up these days
“Probably!” What a great word! You can sense the defeat and the distance. The only line between him and her is his memory, which is thin and is a nonexistent thread to her.
But I will wait for you
As long as I need to
And if you ever get back to Hackensack
I’ll be here for you
Hackensack. Despite Springsteen and Bon Jovi, New Jersey was never cool and still is not. If you’re from anywhere else, you look down your nose at the Garden State. Hell, not a single person from my high school applied to Princeton… The thought of going to college in New Jersey was unthinkable!
It’s our dreams that get us through. Give up your dreams and you’re truly dead. No matter how delusional they might be, like that of the guy in this song. Then again, he’s waiting. Are you moving or waiting? Actually, you’ve got to do both, that’s one of the themes of “Welcome Interstate Managers.”
And I’d be lying if I said I was hooked by any of the later albums.
And I went to see Fountains Of Wayne at the Wiltern and they were exactly what I supposed they were, not at all who I hoped them to be. They were like college kids, playing in the cafeteria, very little soul, getting it right, but not perfect. But on wax, where they could labor over the music like a science project, they could craft a statement.
And that’s what “Welcome Interstate Managers” is. Pop music filtered through the viewpoint of two Williams graduates who refused to leave their personalities at the door, who desired to get their perspective recorded. And they did. And if you share any of their history, and more do than don’t, you’ll love it!