Music » CD Reviews

Fountains of Wayne

Traffic and Weather (Virgin)

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It's been four years since Fountains of Wayne's last studio album, but the wait has been more than worth it, because FOW produces incredibly well-constructed pop. Besides a gift for hummable melodies, the group's bite-size vignettes of middle-class angst (think John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom) reveal a novelist's eye for detail. This ensures a three-dimensionality most pop songs lack; from pimping a "'92 Subaru" to hitting on the DMV clerk ("Yolanda Hayes"), they rarely fail to deliver a fresh take.

The album takes on an '80s air at times, including the slinky "Strapped for Cash," whose horns sound nabbed from Genesis' Abacab, and the title track, a funky rock strut that recalls Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry." Sometimes it all comes too easily: The guitar-driven anomie of "Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim" echoes a number of prior tracks, such as "Hackensack" off the last album. But when the band hits -- about 75 percent of the time -- it's a fine score.

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