Listening to Traffic and Weather, this year’s release by Fountains of Wayne, I wonder if the quartet’s creativity has run dry.
Four years in the making, the 14-song CD delivers a great amount of audio fun. In this CD, the group once again takes the ‘70s pop sound that includes steady guitars, easy-to-remember choruses and great harmonies and uses it to its full advantage in explorations of love and observations about life.
But the bad news is that’s all the album offers. What a shame. The group's three previous works seemed to deliver this great pop sound but go a step beyond and include some very memorable tunes. As fans know, the standout FOW song is arguably “Stacy’s Mom,” from the band’s 2003 album Welcome Interstate Managers. Sadly, the group's latest CD has no such song to set it ahead of the pack.
That’s not to say that the album isn’t a lot of fun. Take the song “This Better Be Good,” about a lose woman and her fellow who wears light-blue Dockers. Or “Strapped for Cash,” about a down-on-his-luck, money-all-run-out fellow. And “Yolanda Hayes” is another radio-friendly pop song about a DMV attendant who just can’t be forgotten. Rarely does the underdog get a better shake, or at least as an amusing story, as through FOW.
Of course, musically FOW is solid and they bring some interesting lyrical word play into all of the tunes; those positives haven't changed.
In fairness, one of the positives about FOW is that it never takes itself too seriously. In these days when everyone has an ethical story that they absolutely must set to song and preach to everyone, that’s a welcome relief.
But the problem with Traffic and Weather is that the music never goes beyond the light, poppy, sweet sound. Like too much soda pop on a hot summer day, the sweetness leaves one craving more substance.