Picks and Pans Review: Welcome Interstate Managers

UPDATED 07/28/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/28/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

Fountains of Wayne (S-Curve/Virgin)
Critic's Choice

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Catchy tunes laced with wry observations and poignant insights have been the hallmark of bands like the Kinks and They Might Be Giants. Infectious rock and roll doesn't always lead to commercial success, however, as those cult groups can attest: The Kinks had only a handful of hits in 25 years, and TMBG none. Now hovering in similar pop purgatory is this quartet led by Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, two deft composers whose lot it is to craft a third album of near-perfect car-radio songs that fans have little hope of ever hearing on tightly formatted radio. Memorable as it would be to blast a top-down summer song like the irresistible loser's lament "Bright Future in Sales" or "Stacy's Mom," about a high school boy whose girlfriend's mom "has got it goin' on," it's only going to happen if you get this CD. Luckily, you don't need wind in your hair to feel the rush of "Little Red Light," about a commuter stuck in traffic on the Tap-pan Zee Bridge in New York, or the longing of the schmoes and working stiffs of "Halley's Waitress," about a diner where coffee refills arrive with the frequency of the comet.

BOTTOM LINE: Clever, quirky and fun

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