Down Through the Sky
In 2003 the Hackensack, New Jersey quartet Fountains of Wayne set a high standard for the power-pop genre with Welcome Interstate Managers. Bassist/composer Adam Schlesinger’s ability to present literal, trivial subject matter alongside a melody that makes you think there must be something more is without peer. When he writes about a missing waitress, a quarterback looking for a receiver, or “Stacy’s Mom,” there is no further intention. The band step down from that lofty perch with the straightforward roots-rock of Sky Full of Holes.
Schlesinger’s vignettes still exist, exemplified in the opening two songs—”Summer House,” about a woman whose personality changes on summer vacation, and “Richie and Ruben,” a tale of two men and the various ways they’ve blown investments. But also we see stronger, more picturesque imagery in “Cold Comfort Flowers” (“They evolve in time/Wind finely on the vine/Climbing toward the spots on the sun”) and in “Workingman’s Hands,” where you get the hint that there is more to the song than the title suggests.
The problem, however, is that musically the songs are unrewarding. Maybe it’s guitarist/co-composer Chris Collingswood’s limitations as a vocalist. His nasal twang was perfectly suited for the band’s crunchier numbers, and also worked well for the occasional acoustic cutie. He’s an ineffective salesman for deeper messages, and the lack of dynamics throughout the album makes it difficult to maintain interest. However, gems “Road Trip” and “Action Hero” would be right at home alongside classic FoW country-tinged numbers like “Valley Winter Song” and “Hackensack.” Sky Full of Holes is a necessary addition to complete fans’ FoW collections, but it won’t net the band any new followers.