Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ten From Fountains of Wayne: "Action Hero"


"Action Hero" / Fountains of Wayne

What?  The only Fountains of Wayne song you know is their one pop hit, "Stacy's Mom"?  Now that's a shame.  Permit me to widen your horizons, with not one but ten FOW tracks that prove their genius...    

From Sky Full of Holes (2011).
For anyone who loves (as I do) the Kinks' incisive portraits of English suburbia -- "Well-Respected Man,""Shangri-La," "Autumn Almanac"-- becoming a Fountains of Wayne fan is a natural. FOW's songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood have, along with Ben Folds, carved a niche as our top chroniclers of modern American middle-class life. Each of their songs is a finely observed short story;  "Stacy's Mom" is just the tip of the iceberg.  
Somehow Schlesinger and Collingwood still remember perfectly what it is to be a suburban teen or twenty-something.  But this lovely track from their most recent album, Sky Full of Holes, shows that they get grown-up life just as well.    
Don't be fooled by that title. Our hero is an ordinary sort of family guy, fumbling for his keys in the parking lot. (Predictably, his rowdy kids totally don't get it -- to them he's just a dad joke.) It's only in his mind that he's a superhero. Although, admit it -- in our celebrity-obsessed culture, don't we all long to be larger than life?  And how beautifully this track skates the line between buying into his fantasy and rejecting its premises.
But then, they throw in a curveball. In verse two, we learn that our action hero has been visiting Mount Sinai hospital (God is in the details: local NYC-metropolitan reference) for some tests. Suddenly the phrase "racing against time" takes on a whole new meaning. 
This is where Fountains of Wayne shines: In taking the lives of ordinary just-like-us folks and giving them voice. As that chugging power-pop setting uplifts and resonates, how could we not love this guy, doing the dad thing, cherishing his action-hero dreams, but still coming smack up against the all-too-grown-up reality whatever those scary tests reveal?
Do we not all know heroes like this? And do we not love Fountains of Wayne for putting them into song?

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