Fountains of Wayne – Out-Of-State Plates (CD)

I’ve never really been inculcated into the cult of Fountains of Wayne, but this compilation is a good view into the band (even if none of these tracks have been on one of their proper releases). The band has really maintained a coherent and distinctive sound over the last decade, as the only thing that really divides tracks from the beginning of their career (such as Janice’s Party) with the newest of the new (like The Girl I Can’t Forget) is the amount of electronic sound (synthesizers) present in the newer tracks. “Out-of-State Plates” is then a perfect example of the distillation of pop-influenced rock to the point that perfection is near. Fountains of Wayne is a much less annoying Beatles; the only thing immediately problematic with this disc is the fact that it was not created in a chronological or thematic order. The first crack in the disc’s strong façade comes during “Nightlight”, a half-baked “world music”-influenced track that does not have enough get up and go to really distinguish itself.

“I Want You Around” is another misstep on this disc, which falls again into the same fault-line of not nearly being energetic enough to keep the melody laid down by the band afloat. This lull really continues through the end of the first disc, which has two covers of older artist’s tracks (“Trains and Boats and Planes” and “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”). Starting out the second disc with another new track (The Girl I Can’t Forget), Fountains of Wayne move into their cover of “…Baby One More Time”), which may be the worst version I’ve heard of the song. Fountains of Wayne sapped the entirety of the energy from this track and replaced it with an ennui and a frat-rock style that really makes the track unbearable. The band makes a resumption to rocking during “Elevator Up”, which just has a certain fullness that a number of the tracks on “Plates” just do not have.

The middle section of the second disc, while having slower songs (like “Kid Gloves”) just really shines as a testament to the band’s diverse and continually interesting sound. This feeling is only strengthened by the country-influenced “Today’s Teardrops” (which makes sense, since it was originally written by Gene Pitney); and this second disc really shows that Fountains of Wayne have been a force in popular music for over a decade, and if the vast majority of “Out-Of-State Plates” can sound this good, chances are that the band can maintain interest and relevancy the next decade.

Top Tracks: Kid Gloves, Today’s Teardrops

Rating: 6.1/10

Fountains of Wayne – Out-Of-State Plates / 2005 Virgin / 30 Tracks / http://www.fountainsofwayne.com / http://www.virginrecords.com / Reviewed 30 May 2005

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