It was Adam Schlesinger’s gift to plumb the notes of blessed youth. A few years shy of forty the songwriter-singer of Fountains of Wayne released their third album Welcome Interstate Managers, a song suite about blighted young people for whom Chris Collingwood’s articulate tenor showed no signs of contempt: the executive nimrod in “Bright Future in Sales,” the football dude in “All Kinds of Time” who grows up to be Dennis Quad in Everybody’s All-American. He and co-songwriter Collingwood titled a song “The Valley of Malls” on 1999’s Utopia Parkway that sensibilities less curdled than Schlesinger’s would’ve turned into what the New York Times or something would’ve called A Stinging Satire on the Homogenizing of Our Times. About “Stacy’s Mom” I don’t even have to comment.
Don’t let that paragraph fool you. Acquainted with their work enough to mention my benign curious respect, I’ll let colleagues address Schlesinger’s melodic smarts. At their best, though, Fountains of Wayne attained the buoyancy of prime Squeeze, meeting their standard of writing the equivalent of smart poignant short stories set to music, with verse-chorus-verse as bam-bam-bam inevitable as Tin Pan Alley. “That Thing You Do” is the kind of expert pastiche that surpasses its originals. To drift into one’s fifties unsure about health care and level of medical attention is an indictment of a system fifty years committed to killing people for the sake of an inconsistently followed and malevolently applied ideology.