It’s been four years since Fountains of Wayne’s sublime sophomore disc, ”Utopia Parkway,” failed to score the big sales it deserved. Now the band has cannily front-loaded its 16-song return, Welcome Interstate Managers, with a triple punch of joyously clever power pop. The opener, ”Mexican Wine,” is filled with ”Strawberry Fields Forever” horns and brass-ring fumbles (”I used to fly for United Airlines/Then I got fired for reading High Times”). The rollicking ”Bright Future in Sales” is a wry rocker about a self-sabotaging but ever-optimistic salesman. And first single ”Stacy’s Mom” – a teen’s hormonally addled mash note about his girlfriend’s hot mama (”I know you think it’s just a fantasy/But since your dad walked out, your mom could use a guy like me!”) – is crank-it-up, warble-along perfection, driven by stuttery Cars-style guitar licks.
But ”Welcome” is not all about juicy power chords. ”Fire Island” is a soft, shimmering ballad that pays homage to those halcyon days of naked pool parties when the ‘rents left town. (Yes, the thirtysomething members of FOW have a sweet spot for their formative years.) And in the melancholy ”Hackensack,” a Jersey dude views L.A. as a distant mirage where his high school dream girl and ”everybody else” goes.
”Parkway” didn’t take Fountains of Wayne to the charts, but let’s hope the ”Interstate” will.