Fountains of Wayne Hotline
July 27, 2009 8:41 PM   Subscribe

"Slather the holy hell out of the thing with a semi-ironic Beach Boys vocal pad." What if, every time you got stuck writing your next big power-pop hit, you could just call the Fountains of Wayne hotline to get you over the hump? Country singer Robbie Fulks imagines it, and records it, resulting in the best Fountains of Wayne song Fountains of Wayne never wrote. Meanwhile, the original Fountains of Wayne is no more. (No, not the band.)
posted by escabeche (46 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Robbie Fulks is a fucking genius and a smokin' guitar player and everyone should run out and buy all of his records. No other country artist has the balls to write a song about Nashville called "Fuck This Town" and a tearjerking country ballad called "God Isn't Real". He's more than novelty songs (though his love songs to Susanna Hoffs and Bea Arthur are pretty great). Buy his stuff. See his shows. Did I mention he does a straight-faced cover of the Cher song "Believe"? Yeah, he does. And he even hits the high notes without resorting to Auto-Tune.

posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:00 PM on July 27, 2009 [8 favorites]

I enjoyed this thoroughly. The best line in my opinion was when the gruff operator asked if the 9th was "telegraphed or gratuitous coloration".
posted by thedaniel at 9:03 PM on July 27, 2009

"That ninth -- is that telegraphed or gratuitous coloration?"

I LOL'd. Out loud, even.
posted by chimaera at 9:04 PM on July 27, 2009

Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

"Department of bridges and infrastructure."

Fuck on a bagel is this funny.
posted by Kattullus at 9:05 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Robbie Fulks is indeed great. He's on Bloodshot Records, home of Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons. Bloodshot is easily my favorite label, throw in Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, and all of Langford's other side projects and you've got a full FPP right there. Check them out next time you're in Chicago, or see their 15th anniversary tour at a town near you. Also, listen to more Mekons.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:05 PM on July 27, 2009

Fulks also has a new record out. It's 50 new songs. It's only available here.

/shilling fanboy
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:19 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

oh, that Gerald.

every band has (at least) one kid who wants to use the same trick every time. Definitely rips bare some of my favorite tricks. I feel so... predictable.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:20 PM on July 27, 2009

I remember when Fountains of Wayne first came out with "Stacy's Mom" (I know they'd been around for years before that, but as a preteen, I only listed to top-40 music.), my parents went:

"Holy [expletive], are they named after that store we used to pass when we lived near Route 46 in NJ?"

They were. And it's a sad day for all of us current and former residents of Morris and Passaic counties.
posted by seandq at 9:23 PM on July 27, 2009

I admit, I read the blog post and thought, "Fountains of Wayne is formulaic. *yawn* Stop the presses." But then I hit play. That was great!

"...telegraphed or gratuitous coloration..." :D Genius.
posted by zarq at 9:23 PM on July 27, 2009

Haha, nice. Reminds me a bit of The Grunge song by Radio Free Vestibule.
posted by emeiji at 9:26 PM on July 27, 2009

Actually, even though I posted this, I didn't really get the joke about the ninth being "telegraphed or gratuitous coloration" -- apparently it's really funny so can someone explain it?
posted by escabeche at 9:31 PM on July 27, 2009

Fountains of Wayne is formulaic.

Yeah, but if that formula can create a song as great as "Radiation Vibe," it's a pretty goddamn good formula.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:42 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm not a musician at all, and that was fan-fucking-tastic. Even though I didn't understand half of it, I swear I am fully L-ing OL.
posted by nonspecialist at 9:45 PM on July 27, 2009

That was awesome. It reminds me almost as much of early Phantom Planet as it does Fountains of Wayne.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:50 PM on July 27, 2009

The ninth is a whole tone above the octave, so a C9 would be C-E-G-D (usually with a Bb thrown in there) and a CAdd9 would be a straight C-E-G-D. In either case the D is the ninth. A telegraphed ninth would mean the D had been established as a strong tone before the ninth chord was hit whereas gratuitous coloration would be a ninth chord where the D had never featured as a significant tone in the melody before.

It's an insidery joke because most non-musicians (and a lot of musicians) would have no idea whether the ninth had been telegraphed or not, but to anal harmonizers it would be equally obvious whether the ninth was a throw-in or if it was an integral part of the melody.

I can remember an similar bitch-session in the pages of either NME or Melody Maker where Roddy Frame was ripping Edwyn Collins a new one for simply moving a diminished shape up the neck of the guitar, which is kind of a neat trick the first time you discover it but gets old pretty fast even if you are only about 17 at the time, as Roddy must have been.
posted by unSane at 10:00 PM on July 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

Metafilter: anal harmonizers.

posted by nonspecialist at 10:22 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Man, that is dead-on. Awesome. I still like the first Fountains of Wayne album (and "Radiation Vibe" is a classic), but I wish they'd dialed back the ironic cuteness a notch after that, instead of pushing it to insane levels...

P.S. Roddy Frame was ripping someone for moving a diminished shape up the neck? The same Roddy Frame who wrote "Oblivious"?
posted by equalpants at 10:38 PM on July 27, 2009

How do you listen to the song?
posted by phrontist at 11:01 PM on July 27, 2009

I think I went to Berklee about 7 years too few to find this funny.

Also, i don't get why, during the long talking phone call parts, the music is the most boring "click click click" background imaginable. I can sort of relate to this- as a writer, I loved it when South Park did their "insider-y" rip on Family Guy. But they were being very very funny while they did so. You don't rip someone else's jokes while saying "take my wife, please" - which is kind of what I feel like he's doing here.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:10 PM on July 27, 2009

How do you listen to the song?

There's an unnecessarily minuscule flash player, unnecessarily positioned at the bottom of the article. Also, it lacks a volume control.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:11 PM on July 27, 2009

Nice, but... isn't this fairly old? I remember this getting what seemed a fair amount of radio play, even on KEXP, a few years ago.

That said, it is pretty awesome for those who've never heard it before.
posted by hincandenza at 11:33 PM on July 27, 2009

Hah. Perfect.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:35 PM on July 27, 2009

Yeah, it's funny, but... Fountains of Wayne? Really? Are they really enough of a threat to anyone or anything that anyone needs to expend the effort to mock them? They had one big single that's long since been relegated to bowling alley jukeboxes, and it's not like the cliches he's mocking were specific to them. They were identical to every other band on MOR album rock radio during that 2000-2004 period when formulaic, nonthreatening pop-rock was big. It just seems so specific, like if someone made a record mocking new wave cliches in 1982 and targeted it specifically at, I don't know, A-ha or something. Like, does he have a personal grudge against them? Did one of the members used to be his roommate and screwed him on the rent or something?
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:54 PM on July 27, 2009

Small world. I was a cable-wrangler and mic-mover during his South Mouth sessions years back (late 90's). It was great to work in that studio and see how he made an album. My first day was when he was tracking "I Push Right Over" and I was floored by how well Lou Whitney (fresh of off producing parts of WILCO's Being There) on bass and Joe Terry on keys walking bass together. He was pretty "eh" about his work with Albini.

Funny enough, I ended up doing plenty of with that band and still do today--but now as a player.

However: In "Fuck This Town", he shouts "Oh yeah, Donnie" before a blazing Tele lead. To this day I get people thinking I was the one who played that solo when it was Donnie Thompson (who I still record with time to time). No, not me. I wish. I can't play that perfect.
posted by sourwookie at 12:06 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Weird synchronicity. I'm rewatching the whole run of the Sopranos lately, and I just watched the episode last night where Tony goes to the lawn ornament place, and the name on the sign was, of course, Fountains of Wayne. My eyes crossed a little bit, and so I googled it, and there you go: the band was named after the business. I had no idea.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:06 AM on July 28, 2009

DecemberBoy: I haven't touched bases with him in years, but I have a sense of his sense of humor.

Sometimes random-out-right-field-shit is your M.O. in art. And it makes perfect sense after something as tutored as "Couples In Trouble."
posted by sourwookie at 12:10 AM on July 28, 2009

They had one big single that's long since been relegated to bowling alley jukeboxes, and it's not like the cliches he's mocking were specific to them.

AND they released the best pop album of 1996 with their s/t first album. (The best one that I listened to, anyway)
posted by thedaniel at 12:13 AM on July 28, 2009

"Sometimes random-out-right-field-shit is your M.O. in art."

Like that perfect early 70's National Lampoon joke.
posted by sourwookie at 12:14 AM on July 28, 2009

Obvious parallel
(Like a ringing bell.)
posted by Sebmojo at 12:40 AM on July 28, 2009

Still can't get it to play or can't find the player.

OTOH, his cover of Believe was pretty damn awesome. I will do more looking at him in the future. I promise you that.
posted by Samizdata at 2:35 AM on July 28, 2009

(BTW, I listened to Believe all legit like over at
posted by Samizdata at 2:36 AM on July 28, 2009

it seems he's playing at barbes tonight for those who live in brooklyn.
posted by snofoam at 4:00 AM on July 28, 2009

They had one big single that's long since been relegated to bowling alley jukeboxes

That one big single was a fluke and sounds pretty cheesy in isolation, but people who have been paying attention for the past decade (or even your casual NPR listener) will tell you that the FOW songwriting team has been pretty highly regarded in their power-pop niche for the past decade-plus, which is why they ended up being asked to write a lot of the songs for Josie and the Pussycats and (hey, sound familiar?) That Thing You Do!

Yes, they're one of my faves, but still.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:15 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

"That Thing You Do" is still their best song, and "That Thing You Do" (soundtrack of the Tom Hanks film) is their best album -- and it was a kind of "parody" of what they imagined a 1960s hit song sounded like -- and while it didn't succeed in sounding 60s, it was still a great, great song in its own right (and the other Adam Schlesinger sing on that album, "Little Wild One", is also better than any Fountains of Wayne song). So we've got parody piling on imitation here, producing something, somehow pretty original.
posted by Faze at 4:19 AM on July 28, 2009

Samizdata: I couldn't see the flash player either, when using Firefox on Ubuntu. When I used a Windows machine it showed up.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:56 AM on July 28, 2009

The stupid player wouldn't appear for me either. Luckily, one can get at the flash file here:

which plays fine with VLC. I am also using firefox & Ubuntu.
posted by jozzas at 5:45 AM on July 28, 2009

My only complaint about FOW has been a complete lack of reality in their songs. Nothing seems genuine. Every story seems contrived. Every image invoked by the lyrics seems engineered.

But, whatever, man. Catchy is catchy and I'm a power pop kinda guy. And this parody is both mocking and loving. I APPROVE.
posted by grubi at 5:51 AM on July 28, 2009

I liked that FoW hotline tune. Big grin. But I freaking loved "Total Eclipse of the Heart (Literal version)" video. I'd never seen that before. Thanks!
posted by Artful Codger at 6:37 AM on July 28, 2009

Heh, this is cute.

I went to school in Wayne and noticed that "Fountains of-" was closed last time I went back to visit. Sad!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:46 AM on July 28, 2009

Robbie Fulks also recorded a Michael Jackson tribute album 8 years ago that is just dying to be released. Word is, it might be upon us soon.
posted by pokermonk at 8:26 AM on July 28, 2009

Fountains of Wayne the store, in addition to being northern Jersey’s go-to spot for gaudy lawn furniture, transformed into northern Jersey’s go-to over the top all-Christmas jammy jam monster jam store every November. The first floor was a ton of the usual stuff – trees, decorations, stocking-stuffers, those insane Precious Moments-looking collectable village things, you know the deal. The second floor was a COMPLETELY INSANE display of animatronic Christmasness – Santa in his workshop, Santa on vacation in Tahiti, reindeer sneaking off and kicking a soccer ball around, you get the idea. The next-to-last display (this craziness took up the entire, huge second floor) was always a traditional manger scene and always had some permutation of “We’ve had a lot of fun today, but please don’t forget the reason for the season…” posted above it.

My family & I stopped agreeing about religious stuff in my mid-teens, but I always, always went with them on their yearly, screamingly fun, FoW trip. So many of the holiday things I held dear and remember so fondly now (from tininess like minty-scented candy cane pens and particular strings of garland that only lasted a year to those amazing/ridiculous Caroleers albums that I paid so much for while reclaiming my childhood on eBay… I am not kidding when I tell you that my mum & I came thiiiiiis close to making “Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts” our silly dance at my wedding) came from this place. My wife and I were married in November six years ago, and we went straight from our honeymoon to Fountains of Wayne to buy a Christmas tree. I absolutely thought I’d walk my folks and a kiddo of my own around that place someday and laugh my ass off about our inescapable Jerseyness. It’s a total gut-punch that it’s gone.

The year Fountains of Wayne the band’s first record happened (I was working at the big chain book/music/coffee store in Wayne at the time so it was a pretty funny deal for me – however much they’ve lost the plot that first record and particularly “Sink to the Bottom” are undeniably awesome) I went up to the clearly-one-of-the-owners guy stationed at the exit of Fountains of Wayne the store and asked if he knew about the record. He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and nodded very slowly. Perfect.

There are some “Roadside America” style blog entries about FoW the store’s quick and fanfare-free demise, and they’re appropriately kitschy and ironic – another old-timey business that couldn’t survive these trying times. But one that taught me that the “reason for the season” is enjoying the hell out of your people and making your own traditions.

posted by mintcake! at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

Also - Robbie Fulks really nails it with this. (...and re Grubi's "Nothing seems genuine" note above - check out what Patrick from Sloan had to say about touring with them in '97...)
posted by mintcake! at 8:54 AM on July 28, 2009

I should clarify: When I say "I ended up doing plenty of with that band and still do today--but now as a player." I mean I still work with members from that particular session, not Robbie's current band, whoever they may be now.
posted by sourwookie at 10:57 AM on July 28, 2009

Best thing FoW ever taught me:

Just don't write the third verse.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just don't write the third verse.

Man I am so guilty of this. Sometimes I don't even write the second verse.
posted by thedaniel at 1:50 AM on July 29, 2009

Let's go for meta-recursive: First verse, same as the first.
posted by sourwookie at 12:42 AM on August 19, 2009

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