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Fountains Of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
(S-Curve/Virgin)

Where'd this come from?

Yes, yes, of course; filled with coy tales of suburban boredom and yuppiefied longing set to an amiable power-pop backing, Fountains Of Wayne's self-titled debut album and follow-up record Utopia Parkway are both very, very good. Still, nothing could have prepared the world for Welcome Interstate Managers, the terrifyingly great album wherein these four Jersey guys more or less conquer the world and elsewhere.

It's not surprising that Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger had it in 'em. It's just always a bit astonishing when a band fully delivers on a promise it showed years ago. Where many a band has raised the bar for itself on its first album, only to limbo its way underneath for the remainder of their career, the Wayners pole vault their Jersey asses way over the (Hasbrouck) heights of our expectations with this collection of mildly melancholy ballads of Office Space-esque scenarios and unrequited lust.

There's plenty of that good ol' reliable Cheap Trick-inspired power-pop here to satisfy fans who've come to expect it from los Fountains. But they stretch out on this album and try their hand at a bunch of pop subgenres, mastering them all. To ape Oasis and do it better than anything that band itself has done since its second album, as they do on "Supercollider" and "Little Red Light," is a sound for sore Britpop-loving ears. There's a nice excursion into hillbilly country ("Hung Up On You"). And the ballads are exquisite: "All Kinds Of Time" has to be the best song about sports ever written, and the addictively hummable "Valley Winter Song" manages to be endearing while being mighty sincere for a rock song.

MILF anthem "Stacy's Mom" was a wise choice of first single, lending itself so obviously to a cool video as well as being catchy as hell, but it could make the band sound like somewhat of a novelty to the uninitiated. On Managers, FOW make it official--New Jersey may be the center of the musical universe, but these guys are bad, they're nationwide.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 2003