Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes

Karen Schoemer

By Karen Schoemer

on 08.01.11 in Reviews

Fountains of Wayne’s characters have suffered from a variety of neuroses and tics — inappropriate attraction to a friend’s mom, a mistaken belief in the sex appeal of Subarus — but the misguided white-collar strivers on the Jersey band’s fifth album are coping with a more serious affliction: middle age. In “The Summer Place,” a 40-ish woman revisits the family beach house and remembers her passive-aggressive dad, Seagram’s-soused mom and teen days shoplifting and gobbling mushrooms. It’s a John Cheever novel set to a Raspberries beat. In “Action Hero,” a harried father can’t let go of his comic book notions of saving the world; the weight of failed expectations lands him in the hospital with “things taped to his chest.”

A rueful power-pop gaze at mortality

Since their 1996 debut, Fountains of Wayne have broken up, reunited, longed for hits and scored a minor one (“Stacy’s Mom,” off Welcome Interstate Managers); in the throes of their own no-longer-youth, songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood seem to have accepted the idea that they’re here to stay, crafting overly smart, post-New Wave guitar-and-keyboard pop for a posse of diehards and the occasional besotted bar crowd. Sky Full of Holes isn’t as jarringly disco-fied as Traffic and Weather was in 2007, but it also lacks a lethal hook on the level of their still-greatest song, “Radiation Vibe.” It’s softer and subtler, with less to prove but plenty of low-key grace. “Cold Comfort Flowers” invents the genre of MOR-psychedelia, combining weird plinky keyboards, classic rock guitar fills, a quaalude rhythm and quasi-spiritual lyrics about sad people “climbing toward the spots in the sun.” The closing track, “Cemetery Guns,” also has death on the brain. If you saw yourself in the clueless-loser anthems of previous albums, beware — you might just see yourself here, too, on the crest of a hill, staring down at grave flowers doomed to decay.