If consistency is a positive quality in rock ‘n’ roll, then the Fountains of Wayne belong in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Since the late 90s, Fountains of Wayne have created one record after record with the same style, approach, personnel, pacing, and subject matter. Each record has the same clean, straight-ahead pop style with the same guitar/bass/drums arrangements. They have the same dry humor and flat, no-frills delivery they had when they started. The same singer sings lead each song, the same backup singer sings backup, the same guitarist plays the occasional leads. Did I mention that they’ve had the same drummer since the late 90s? And their latest record, Sky Full of Holes, is no different. These guys don’t even change their facial expressions. Sure, they might throw in some horns, or play a country ditty, or a slow ballad, but they don’t experiment. They don’t bring in producers to give them a different sound. And why should they? The FOW vision is that strong melody, hooks, rhyming, and clean-sounding guitars can set you free, and consistency in this case is a wonderful thing. FOW remind me of the 80s English band Squeeze. They too put out pure pop perfection, record after record, and they didn’t sell many records either. Like Squeeze before them, FOW refused to compromise on their vision. They didn’t latch onto some trend to make them famous. They found their trend two decades ago, and with each new CD they give us another chance to recognize it–and to marvel at how well they execute it. On Sky Full of Holes, Fountains of Wayne continue to tell stories with their songs, and as usual those stories involve stuff like breakdowns, bad situations, and character flaws galore. They continue to show deep empathy for their characters, because FOW suffer for love, just like the rest of us schmoes. They just express it so exquisitely—in a perfect pop package–and they evidently see no reason to change that approach. Nor do I. — MIKE WALSH
Fountains of Wayne appear tonight at the Union Transfer, 9th and Spring Garden, 8:30 pm. James Iha, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins, opens.