out of egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and i shake the dirt from my sandals as i run

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

a doomed, hysterical defense

Shaboy! Pitchfork brings the clever today in honor of the warm weather, jumping the gun and wheeling out this nice, plushy punching bag a full week before its release. They even give it top billing, saying that this, not their blue-balling non-takedown of Amy Winehouse, is actually the critical story of the day. This, my friends, is the element of surprise, and it is genius and it is beautiful.

But I don't know. Easy? You think? A little?

If you have a second, hop in the wayback machine with me - take a look at the old party line on Fountains of Wayne. Dumb lyrics, repetitive v-c-v structure - but ok say they, so what: "I don't fault the band for being disposable." As well you should not sir. Cut to four years later though, and suddenly We Are Not Amused. "We should expect much, much more from pop music than this kind of bullshit."


But truthfully: I expect much, much more from Pitchfork than this kind of bullshit. Especially from the post-2003 Pitchfork, the one that supposedly embraces the disposable, the top 40, the accessible. Faulting a band for getting a hit isn't just A Little 90's You Guys Know What I Mean - it represents the laziest, worst, most cynical aspects of pop criticism. LeMay takes pains to tell us how much he really, really, really didn't like "Stacy's Mom," you guys. Wow dude. Good on you.

I've heard the album, it's not their best. But it has easily as many fantastic songs as Welcome Interstate Managers does (unless we're still pretending to like "Hackensack"), and I want to make sure that bitches are not denying this band their significant, serious place in American pop music.

The lyrics issue is moot. Think about "Radiation Vibe," which I'd bet is LeMay's pick for the band's best song, before they apparently went astray around their second album (by getting a backing band????). I'm not going to write out that amazing song's lyrics, because they are retarded. Overlooking lyrics for melody is not an excuse for mediocrity - it's a listening device that pop music demands as a genre. Look through the liner notes of Pet Sounds and then we can talk.

One thing Fountains of Wayne are doing lyrically, and doing well, is advancing a sort of thesis on which people and stories are worth writing about in pop songs. The epicenter of their songs' landscapes is never far from the suburbs of new york city, which I appreciate selfishly, but also more generally as a statement reclaiming the pop harmony for the east coast, like they're the Biggie to Brian Wilson's Tupac.

Springsteen it ain't. But the hard truth is that even on a weaker album, this band represents a ton of what's right in the pop universe. If you can't remember ever being seriously unable to get over "Mexican Wine," or "Hey Julie," or "Sick Day," or "It Must Be Summer," or "I've Got a Flair," or fuck, even "Prom Theme," then I don't know, man. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that we exist on the same internet.

Fountains of Wayne - New Routine