Fountains of Wayne – Utopia Parkway – Review

Fountain of Wayne

Utopia Parkway (Atlantic)
by Jamie Kiffel

Blackened by car exhaust fumes, gilded with motor oil, a cracked and leathery bunch of nine thorned stems lies stinking in a city gutter. Torn-palmed city man sinks his thick fingers into the barbed stems and bleeds as he hands them to his grease-haired, kohl-eyed lover. But only a thoroughfare away, Elysian Fields florist is filling an order for a tight-lipped bouquet of a dozen fresh, Nair-smooth roses, sent by a 35-year old guy who bends paper clips at his desk in Midtown, to his 34-year-old wife who decorates houses in Westchester. The road that connects them is an electric laugh in major key, barbed lightly with soft, green points of collegiate, suburban cynicism.

“I’ve got it made, I’ve got it down/ I am the king of this goddamn town… I’ve found Utopia – Utopia Parkway,” triumphantly announces Fountains of Wayne‘s Chris Collingwood in a naively sweet tenor. Expressing deeper, amorous concerns, he sings of the love that is truly skin deep: “Red dragon tattoo is now almost on me/ I got it for you, so now, do you want me?” This is head-bobbing amour, Neil Sedaka updated for the new millennium. “Hat and Feet” is a light, Wile E. Coyote allegorical shuffle about a lover spurned, then squashed. WHAM! Hat and feet scrape the street and whisper through muffled folds of neck. “The Valley of Malls” is a well-overdone liberal plaint about the Amerikanization of America; The Waynes set it to the snaky “Love Potion #9.” “Troubled Times” is a sad survey of lost love as only a man could see it: the couple will one day remember, he declares, “How you once gave up, but you made it through the troubled times.” How sweet. Give up. An aimless, overripe hippie gets a psychedelic sendoff with “Go, Hippie,” and the band gets very John-Paul-George-Ringo on “Fine Day for a Parade,” which is a criminally cute copycat of “She’s Leaving Home” with lyrical nods to “Eleanor Rigby.” “Amity Gardens” vaguely describes enlightenment in a very top-40, barbed melodic hook way; “Laser Show” is a one-laugh surf rock tribute to the Hayden Planetarium.

“Prom Theme” best exemplifies what is missing on this disc: as if these garage bandits were just a little too sentimental to really rip into The Sacred Prom, they skirt negativity but never really sit on it. For this reason, throughout the whole disc, most of my “ha ha ha”s stopped on “h….” Decide on pop, politics, or parody, and these emasculated posies might rose-rip real tattoos into some soft, college cuticles.

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