Albums: Fountains of Wayne <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Traffic and Weather, Virgin
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The Independent Culture

It's easy to understand why so many critics love Fountains of Wayne: they're like a tribute band to all the clever-pop groups that first excited their interest years ago, an affirmation that the holy grail of intelligence and commercial appeal is still attainable. But compared with the more intriguing developments pursued by The Shins, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and even Kings of Leon, the parade of classic-rock influences on Traffic and Weather just seems a little passé. The Fables-era REM stylings of "Fire in the Canyon", the Big Star tonalities of "'92 Subaru", and the Supertramp inclinations of "Strapped For Cash" pay homage to antique forms, while the protagonists of songs such as "Yolanda Hayes" and "Michael And Heather At The Baggage Claim" inhabit the American equivalent of the world sketched by Squeeze in ditties like "Cool For Cats". But it's hard to get involved in the characters' lives, because the band's overworked lyrics - such as the gambit of double-rhyming "law degree" with "Schenectady, '93" - leave a residue of smugness that sours one's sympathies.

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