Fountains of Wayne, Astoria, London

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The Independent Culture

You have to be careful with humour in music. If you have a hit with a joke record, people are going to hear the same joke many, many times. It had better be a good joke. Fountains of Wayne are sailing very close to the wind on this score, with their new single, "Stacy's Mom", a tale of misplaced teenage lust whose sunshine chorus Captain Hook would envy. Rachel Hunter is in the video, it's all over MTV, and probably about to be massive. But lyrics such as "I could tell she liked me... from the way she said 'you missed a spot over there'", look better on paper than they sound on record - especially after the ninth listen.

But it would be a shame if these thirtysomething New Yorkers were to be remembered as one-hit wonders. They've made three albums of sweet-but-punchy guitar pop whose lyrics usually sparkle with a subtler wit as they mine the pitfalls of everyday life. Tonight, they get "Stacy's Mom" out of the way early on, and venture no further into that goofball Weezer-type territory. The dominant mood is expansive, drive-time melancholy laced with irony, as on "No Better Place", from latest album Welcome Interstate Managers: "It may be the whiskey talking / but the whiskey says I miss you every day." But though Welcome... has been rapturously received, they play just half a dozen songs from it - and the singer Chris Collingwood all but apologises each time. The crowd seems to contain more of the band's established fans than the teens they're now picking up, and appreciates the old stuff. Old favourites such as "Sink to the Bottom" go down a storm.

Fountains of Wayne evidently feel that their songs alone can carry a show, and simply stand at the front of the stage and play them. This is almost enough - Collingwood and co-songwriter Adam Schlesinger have come up with some fantastic melodies, and if you like the sound of a whiny American accent singing pretty tunes over a rolling sea of fuzzed-up guitars... well, that's what this is. But the songs are not so wonderful as to transcend the fact that you're standing still watching four men who look older than people who sing about high school should, and aren't moving about much either. The fuzzy rock numbers are not quite Teenage Fanclub, and Evan Dando's recent solo album contains better examples of wistful acoustic pop than the admittedly sweet "Valley Winter Song".

What it is, though, is near-perfect driving music. The guitars soar, the melodies invite you to sing along. If Fountains of Wayne are to play bigger venues than this in future, they'll need to put on more of a show. Why not ditch the teen-movie aesthetic of the "Stacy's Mom" video, and project a driver's-eye view of some beautiful highway vista somewhere, on a massive screen behind them?

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