It was through asking a record shop assistant what was currently playing in the store as I was browsing that I first came across Fountains of Wayne. The track was ‘All Kinds of Time’ from 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers, which I immediately bought on the strength of this first listen. This album would go on to soundtrack my first year at university, and indeed would propel the band to international status largely on the back of the album’s standout slice of power-pop perfection ‘Stacy’s Mom’, which charted in fifty bazillion countries.
The world has changed somewhat in the intervening years. For one, the days of discovering music by such archaic methods may well be a thing of the past, with apps like Shazam making all music instantly available at the click of a button. So does Fountains lead singer and co-songwriter, Chris Collingwood, still have something to say in this changed cultural climate? As much as it grieves a long-time FoW fan to say so, the answer is, sadly, no.
Look Park opens optimistically with ‘Shout Out Pt 1′, which gives the impression that we might be in for something special. However, after a few listens it’s clear we’re onto a dud rather than a doozy. The album is similar in many ways to Sky Full of Holes, FoW’s last offering, although it lacks even the melodic sparkle of that album (which was far from their best), with songs like ‘Stars of New York’ failing to rise to the heights of tracks such as ‘Richie and Ruben’ or ‘A Road Song.’
Whereas FoW at their peak were able to pen tunes such as ‘Valley Winter Song’ and ‘Sink to the Bottom,’ which combined the unthinking rush of joyous pop-rock with lyrics that were marked by a wry intelligence and full of cultural references, both attributes are conspicuous by their absence from Collingwood’s first solo effort.
Songs such as ‘Breezy,’ ‘Airplane’ and ‘You Can Come Round If You Want To’ are all passable in and of themselves, but there is absolutely nothing on this album to compare with the short sharp shock of early singles like ‘Radiation Vibe,’ or even lesser recent attempts for that matter. ‘Get on Home’ closes the album and it would be good if Collingwood would do just that and go back to the drawing board for the next Look Park release.
Producer Mitchell Froom lends the album the same crystal clear production he has served up in the past for artists such as Crowded House and Elvis Costello, andDavey Faragher and Smash Mouth’s Michael Urbano lay down an impressive rhythm section for Collingwood to work with. But, ultimately, this is not enough to compensate for the record’s fundamental flaw – a total lack of tunes – and the record is a disappointment. None of the tracks really deserve a mention expect ‘Crash That Piano’ which is so bad. It’s dreary and frustrates this reviewer no end as I’m such a big Fountains of Wayne fan. Wait until Collingwood is back writing songs with Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne rather than pinning your hopes on this being a decent release.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.