Not quite a case of teenage kicks

Not quite a case of teenage kicks

Fountains of Wayne are not your archetypal whiskey band. And, says Lew Guthrie III, they're all the better for it

Whisky & Culture | 14 Apr 2006 | Issue 55 | By Lew Guthrie

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If you’ve been reading this music page for the last three issues or so you’ve probably spotted a trend. Lots of songs about sad lonely guys sitting in depressing bars crying in to their whiskey, reminiscing over what might have been and dreaming fruitlessly of making a fresh start.And as Hunter might have put, that’s all too damn serious! Only with expletives.So here’s a surprise: a band who sing about whiskey a lot and are having loads of fun with it.First things first in these days of responsible drinking, they might sound like a bunch of teenagers but they are all of legal drinking age.This is important because on the classic Welcome Interstate Managers album the two words that leap out at you are ‘teenagers’ and ‘American’. The youthful image was enhanced by the very clever and very catchy Stacy’s Mom, in which our heroes ask Stacy to invite them over so they can fantasise over her mother. After school.Great stuff, of course, but we’re here for the whiskey – and there’s lots of it once you get past the opening track, which happens to be called Mexican Wine.What we have here are two songwriters – Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger – who have identified that whisky and whiskey are both the perfect lubricants to deal with having to become proper and responsible adults. This is brave stuff for an American band in an era when hard liquor is frowned upon.And frankly Fountains of Wayne just don’t care.Take track two, for instance. In Bright Future in Sales our band acknowledge they have all their office life ahead of them. Trouble is...“Sleeping on a planter at the Port Authority, waiting for my bus to come, seven Scotch and sodas at the office party, now I don’t remember where I’m from.” And later in the same track:“Heading for the airport on a misty morning, gonna catch a flight to Baltimore, try to kill an hour with a whiskey sour, if there’s time I might have just one more” Note the reference to a misty morning, suggesting it’s early, and the unconvincing promise that he might have ‘just one more.’ Okay, we do get the sad reminiscing whiskey moments but even here you get the sense that we’re taking a reflective pit stop before heading out for life in the fast lane once more.On No Better Place, we’re told:“The bourbon sits inside me, right now I’m a puppet in its sway. And it may be the whiskey talking, but the whiskey says I miss you every day.” And on Hung Up On You we’re drinking ‘Kentucky bourbon’ while waiting for a call: “Well the house I’m ringing from is a half a mile from you But with the reception I’m getting, might as well be Timbuktu.” But there’s a difference, these boys have more in common with love sick teenagers than middle-aged depressives. They know when to put down the glass and head on out, to flirt (Hey Julie), drink, flirt (Halley’s Waitress) and drink:“Now I’m going to Jimmy’s bar, like a thousand other times With an appetite for poison and a suitcase full of dimes” By Fire Island they’re driving cars on the lawn and swimming naked in the pool. Being young and loving it. And doing it with a good glass of whiskey.Wonderful.
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