Monday, August 1, 2016

Fountains Of Whine?

Since the late 90's, Fountains Of Wayne have been responsible for some incredibly clever and melodic pop music. Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood are smart, both with their words and music. I have been a fan since their 1997 debut, though their last release, "Sky Full Of Holes" missed the mark for me. The storylines and snarky ~wink-wink~ pop culture references in the lyrics seemed to stand out more than the hooks and melodies. What once felt fresh and often hilarious, now felt tired. Maybe the boys thought the same thing and that is why we have "Look Park," a new solo project from Chris Collingwood.

From the opening track, something felt wrong. It wasn't the song itself. Words and music to "Shout Part One" were just fine. It was Collingwood. "Why is he singing like this? I don't like it," I thought to myself. I let it go and continued with the rest of the record. It wasn't going away. Chris Collingwood has suddenly become Rudy Vallee. He is over-enunciating on every song, as if during the time off from Fountains Of Wayne, he took some misguided vocal lessons from a saboteur.

Hear me out.

The songs are fine. Some resembling the power pop of his former band, only less guitar driven. Some, like "Breezy" and "Minor Is The Lonely Key" are terrific, and would not be out of place on a James Taylor record, and I mean that in the best possible way. But those vocals! Is it me? Am I hearing things? The elongated vowels and odd pronunciations are a distraction. I don't recall this on any FOW tune. Was it always there but possibly less noticeable with Schlesinger's additional harmonies?

I am not a fan of Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" voice. I am not of fan of Ray Davies' "Victoria" voice.  This new affectation made its way right under my skin.

As I read over what I've written, I realize this is an odd review.  As I said, I've been a fan since the beginning and I was looking forward to "Look Park." But damn, what might be a wonderful set of new songs from one of my favorite artists not born in the 40's, has taken a backseat to an unwelcome new vocal style. Maybe I'll get over it, or it will magically either disappear or suddenly not bother me. But please, listen for yourself, especially if you're a fan. I need to know I am not crazy. (Well...crazier.)


Dr Wu said...

Sounds a little like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie with a sinus cold. You're not crazier.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I read a glowing review of "Welcome Insterstate Managers", somewhere. I live in New Jersey, and an ex-wife and I used to drive past the actual Fountains Of Wayne on the way to her parents, so I expected to like the band more than I did.
Found it at NYCD, and I intensely disliked "Stacy's Mom" the first time I heard it.
That poisoned the well for me. I hated the record.
I think you are right about mis-guided voice lessons.
He sounds like Morrissey, who I loathe, on the second one.
I felt generous giving each song 30 seconds.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

Jon Springer said...

I've never much liked his delivery, I always found it an unneceesary irony effect, but not sure on first listen if this is any worse than usual

Shriner said...

So I have not heard Look Park yet -- (apart from the single). I thought these were two pretty good songs -- and I'm a big fan of the band. I get what you are saying, but it's not nearly as distracting to me. It's been 5 years since Sky Full of Holes. It's possible his voice has changed. It's likely he was going for a more laid-back vocal style. It's still Collingwood to me, though.

whattawino said...

Oh it's not you, Sal. There is definitely something odd going on with the vocal delivery. I am a big FOW fan, and I can say that this is not doing it for me. Nope. Uh-uh. Gonna drink down a lot of Basil Hayden to see if it helps this song....I don't have high hopes.

Anything Should Happen said...

I haven't listened to the album yet Sal, so will let you know when I do.

I can't agree more with your general FOW comments. Sky Full Of Holes was a bit pants, I like the rest a lot.

I think Shriner is being a bit kind about a voice changing in five years, particularly at Collingwood's age.I'm sure Shriner, as always, will let us know either way when he's heard it.

BBJ - Disliking the band because of Stacy's Mon is a bit like disliking all that McCartney does because of The Frog Chorus.

Sal - I'm out for a day trip with the Queen Of All She Surveys tomorrow and was gonna have this on the drive out as a first listen. You've out me right off now.

Love the Over 40 comment. I've actually made a big effort in the past couple of months to what is going on wiv da yoofs and to be honest, there's some decent stuff, there is a lot of tosh though, a lot of tosh.

cmealha said...

I hear what you're saying about the voice but it's not bothering me, at least not on these 2 cuts, which are real nice and are cause enough to check out the album.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I didn't like ANY of "Welcome Interstate Managers". "Stacy's Mom" was the hit, which I hated, but since it was in the middle of an album, it colored the rest of it which failed to overcome that initial dislike. I played it in it's entirety about 5 times and it didn't get any better.

Anonymous said...

All you FOW fans out there: what do you think of Robbie Fulk's "Fountains of Wayne Hotline"?
I love it, but since I'm not that familiar with Fountains I've always wondered what a true fan felt about it.

Anything Should Happen said...

I've listened to it three times over the past couple of days.

The voice, you are spot on Sal! I can just imagine Austin Powers dancing to the album and I don't intend that as a compliment.

Presently, I'm giving it the Most Disappointing Album You Were Looking Forward To Of The Year.

Michael Giltz said...

I blame the TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" for them going their ways at the moment. But since I love "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and they had run their course/needed a break, I'm fine with that.

Shriner said...

So I listened to it finally. I had no problems with an vocal affectations. What bothered me was the same tempo on every single song and a disappointing number of hooks. As a collection, it's pretty dull. Individual songs are fine, but it would be like listening to an album full of 12 versions of "Hackensack" -- and that's disappointing.

Anonymous said...


I am not a huge fan of FOW but I have to say I kind of liked the Look Park thing, and am tempted to go see them in October in NYC. He's touring with people from the Winterpills so that is a promising connection for me. And 15 bucks is 15 bucks.

Michael D.