Fountains of Wayne

Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve/Virgin)

Music is uniquely capable of transporting you to faraway, exotic locales -- in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies, for example. Or, in the case of Fountains of Wayne, to soul-sucking Manhattan office buildings and the diners, expressways and suburban lawns within an hour's commute of them.

Like the two albums preceding it, Welcome Interstate Managers finds the NYC power-pop quartet fleshing out its cosmopolitan vignettes with universally recognizable experiences and impossibly catchy melodies. It's a witty working-stiff worldview with vivid imagery right out of an issue of Temp Slave: horrible bosses with clip-on ties, pointless paperwork and rush-hour traffic snarls. Meanwhile, the familiar tale of young-lust-by-the-backyard-pool in "Stacy's Mom," injected with lively Ric Ocasek sensibilities, zips along like a double feature of The Graduate and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Many of the album's highest points come when the Fountains take it down a notch: The majestic ballad "All Kinds of Time" finds co-front man Chris Collingwood crooning about a quarterback being blitzed with the tenderness normally reserved for reminiscing fondly about past loves. And with an elegant guitar line lifted from Luna's playbook, "Hackensack" tells the wistfully sweet story of a shlub just across the Hudson River who dreams his high school crush, now a famous Hollywood model-actress type, will someday return to their North Jersey town and fall into his arms. Leave it to other New York bands to dwell in the downtown gutters -- the Fountains' exuberant hearts lie with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.

 
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