Album of B-Sides and other stuff released by Fountains of Wayne in 2005.

There's no denying (by me, at least) that power pop is fun, usually combining the crunchy lilt of electrification with things that tend to fall by the wayside in contemporary pop music, things like lyrics and melody and whatnot. OK GO is a great example of this, but they come across as meaner than most people like. Fountains of Wayne, on the other hand, prides itself on its earnestness without usually devolving into treacle. I like them a lot - they sound like New Jersey to me, with songs filled with stories about leaving the suburbs and road trips to New York City and nights spent at the Pink Floyd laser show at the now defunct Hayden Planetarium and days spent in "The Valley of Malls." The valley's real name is Wayne, New Jersey, and I grew up just over the hill from there - the original Fountains of Wayne store was a staple of my childhood on Route 46, passed on the way to diners and to Anthony Wayne's, the best damn suburban burger joint this side of anywhere that, too, no longer exists.

Fuck I feel old now.

All that being said, this two disc set is still a B-sides and out takes collection, and we know how spotty those can be. They're generally released for the fans who can't not have a complete collection and, while the songs are immensely entertaining by themselves, they lack the cohesiveness of their albums of new material by definition.

There are moments, though. The two songs that start each disc, "Maureen" and "The Girl I Can't Forget" practically dare you not to sing along, which fits seeing as how they aren't b-sides and were recorded specifically for this album. "Maureen" tells the story of the hot best friend all guys've had at some point in their lives or another, the one oblivious to the love we (I mean they), threw their way, seeing it as nothing other than friendship. There's a twist, though - in this one, he's fine with her not being with him, he really is, he just wishes she'd stop telling him about her sex life. The chorus goeth:

You don't know what you do to me,
I know you won't be true to me
The least that you can do for me
Is to keep it to yourself

You get the picture. "The Girl I Can't Forget" flips that idea entirely on its ass, with the guy who got the girl but, for the life of him, can't figure out how because he completely blew their first date, getting into a fight with some asshole at the bar, losing his keys, ending up in prison and having to get bailed out by...guess who? Each verse ends with the so-charming-I-can't-even-begin-to-describe-it phrase "It was the night I can't remember with the girl I can't forget." Sounds like a country ballad based on the description, but it's fast and there are horns. The vocals are sung in this charming confused voice like he's still in a daze and man, do I ever love that.

There are other highlights including a couple of Christmas songs ("I want an Alien For Christmas" and "The Man in the Santa Suit" that I've added to my christmas rotation to the annoyance of my mother) that're kinda dopey in a Dr. Demento sort of way, and a truly inspired balletic (and serious!) cover of "...Baby One More Time" that proves once and for all that Diane Warren's got talent no matter what that broad does to her songs. There's the bizarrely titled "California Sex Lawyer" that's about...well, exactly what it sounds like it's about, and the surprisingly sweet "I'll Do the Driving."

The problem is (and ain't there always a problem?) that the album's hard to listen to cover to cover, partially because each disc starts with the corkers I've already described that very little could live up to, and partially because they were B-Sides for a reason, slower and more contemplative than the band's standard energy level. The good news is that somebody realized this, so you get both discs for fifteen bucks or so. To me those two tracks alone are worth double that, but that's coming from a guy who spent thirty dollars for (essentially) one song, once, an REM cover of "Wichita Lineman," the best song Jimmy Webb wrote for Glen Campbell back in the day, so my metric's probably a tad skewed.

I'd buy it, but I already did. The rest's up to you.

Disc One:

  1. Number 45 Sunblock (Intro)
  2. Maureen
  3. California Sex Lawyer
  4. Janice's Party
  5. Karpet King
  6. Baby I've Changed
  7. I Know You Well
  8. You're Just Never Satisfied
  9. I'll Do The Driving
  10. Nightlight
  11. I Want You Around
  12. Trains & Boats & Planes
  13. Places
  14. Can't Get It Out Of My Head (Live)
Disc Two:
  1. City Folk Morning (Intro)
  2. The Girl I Can't Forget
  3. ...Baby One More Time
  4. Elevator Up
  5. Comedienne
  6. Kid Gloves
  7. Today's Teardrops
  8. She's Got A Problem (Live)
  9. These Days
  10. I Want An Alien For Christmas
  11. The Man In The Santa Suit
  12. Chanukah Under The Stars
  13. Killermont Street
  14. Half A Woman
  15. Small Favors
  16. Imperia

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