Fountains of Wayne, Carling Academy, London
Wayne's world rocks
Friday 27 August 2004
Named after a gaudy New Jersey garden furniture shop, these four thirtysomethings turned out to be a resolutely self-effacing bunch. There are no histrionics, and banter with the crowd was minimal. The band just got about the business of bombarding the audience with unashamedly sumptuous pop vignettes.
Playing their last gig of this successful tour, they started with the frivolous "I've Got a Flair" from their eponymous first album. They then mined material from the gorgeous Utopia Parkway (1999) - an album which failed to garner them the recognition they deserved - and their latest, the critically lauded Welcome Interstate Managers.
Yes, admittedly, they do sound a tad like an American college band, and occasionally they do stray perilously close to The Rembrandts of Friends fame. However, this all hardly matters as they are brimming with infectious hooks and absurdly catchy melodies. They've also got an awful lot of stories to tell, most of them about small-town America; the office workers, the travelling salesman, the "dreamers" who long to break the shackles of their daily grind. Their targets are small and parochial, but like The Smiths and The Kinks, no less powerful for it.
It appears that the crowd are dedicated followers of Wayne. They're clearly not just here to soak up the band's breakthrough hit "Stacy's Mom" (the song with Rachel Hunter in the video). They know their Wayne and the luscious "Sink to the Bottom", from their first album, is as warmly appreciated as anything played all night.
However, FOW are at their most potent when they're singing acerbically and wittily about loss, as on "Hackensack", the standout pop track of the night. A lament about a lost love who has gone on to bigger things, the song still manages to be droll: "Now I see your face in the strangest places/ Movies and magazines/ I saw you talking to Christopher Walken/ On my TV screen."
They count as their influences a stack of British bands - The Beatles, Prefab Sprout, and Aztec Camera - and their love of British pop is manifest in their support act, Glenn Tilbrook, ex-lead singer of Squeeze. For the first of two encores, the clearly excited Tilbrook is asked to join the band in a joyous version of their wittiest song "Red Dragon Tattoo". FOW allow him to take singing honours, which he revels in. Though it's slightly surreal to see the Squeeze man sing "Will you stop pretending I've never been born/ Now I look a little more like that guy from Korn." A wholly refreshing night.
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