Banger or Mash?: Fountains of Wayne – ‘Welcome Interstate Managers’
There are loads of artists with the ‘one hit wonder’ seal of shame. In this new feature, we revisit albums that spawned the one-off megahits we know and love to see if perhaps there’s something more we’ve been missing out on all these years. This time, we have Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne.
Let’s be honest. ‘Stacy’s Mom’… is not a great song. In the pantheon of one hit wonders and radio hits in general, it is far from the bottom of the barrel, but it isn’t a song I see myself throwing on any playlists in the near future. That fact alone is a big part of the reason why I haven’t paid much attention to 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers, Fountains of Wayne ’s third album, in comparison to how much I have listened to their self-titled debut and follow up album Utopia Parkway.
But in the last week, I have listened to both ‘Stacy’s Mom’ and Welcome Interstate Managers more than I ever have. Unfortunately, I cannot say my opinion on ‘Stacy’s Mom’ has changed. For some people, this is the only song by Fountains of Wayne they know, and I think it is that ignorance of how great some other songs are that let them think ‘Stacy’s Mom’ is one of the good ones.
However, this extended listening has taught me that it’s not only them who were blind to how great Fountains of Wayne’s songwriting can be. Because of the aversion towards Welcome Interstate Managersthat song gave me, I discovered I had been missing out on some of the best songs in all of the band’s discography.
Before any of that, it is important to justify saying ‘Stacy’s Mom’ is a bad song, because in many respects it isn’t that bad at all. Where it manages to stand out most of all is the lyrics. For as much as I’d rather listen to the guitars of Fountains of Wayne before Wheatus, at least ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ is simply on the level of ‘Creep’ in terms of cringe-worthy generic love sickness. No, ‘Stacy’s Mom’ is closer to Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher,’ but where ‘Hot For Teacher’ manages to feel more like a kid’s crush (at least if you ignore the music video), ‘Stacy’s Mom’ has lyrics that are much more direct in exactly how the narrator feels about a woman we know to literally be old enough to be his mom.
But if you’re reading this, you probably knew most of that already. The whole point is that we all know this song, but what about the album? Welcome Interstate Managers didn’t change my world, but despite that, I still liked the album overall. The two tracks that come before the song I will not be referring to directly again are both classic Fountains of Wayne songs. The intro to ‘Mexican Wine’ is like a cold open, and when the guitars come in, it just feels right. ‘Bright Future In Sales’ is a straightforward song about the mundanity of office work, but that guitar hook always gets stuck in my ear, even if it is pretty simple.
As the album goes on, it definitely tails off. The other hit from this album, ‘Hey Julie,’ is a stand-out, and probably would’ve made for a better radio hit, but it’s too late for that now. ‘Supercollider’ is perhaps the biggest stand-out of the more down-tempo songs that litter the back half of this album, and a personal favourite as well. It’s got a little bit of that shoegaze-y reverb that gives it a unique identity compared to other songs on this part.
It wouldn’t really be a Fountains of Wayne album if it didn’t struggle to keep up with an explosive opening during the back half. Even my favorite album from them, their debut self-titled LP, suffers from the same issue. At the end of the day, the band is at their strongest when they are writing songs like ‘Stacy’s Mom,’ it just so happens that ‘Stacy’s Mom’ is both the most popular and worst of that type that they ever recorded.
I have to say though, I was pleasantly surprised listening to the whole album. It has solidified itself as my second favorite from the band, which I didn’t expect going into this. Despite not loving the one I had already heard, the rest of the power-pop songs on this album filled that musical guilty pleasure just as well as Fountains of Wayne classics like ‘Sink to the Bottom’ or ‘Denise.’ I recommend giving it a listen, especially if your only exposure was to its MTV-level hit, like me. But if you feel like skipping a track you’ve heard too many times before, that might not be a terrible idea either.
Verdict: Banger. It may not be earth-shattering, but it does have a lot more goin’ on than Stacy’s Mom.