Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ten from Fountains of Wayne: "Hackensack"


"Hackensack" / 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 Welcome Interstate Managers (2003).

Probably the only pop song ever written about Hackensack, New Jersey -- but since FOW itself is named after a New Jersey garden center, it makes sense. 

Here's the set-up: The singer is sending this song out to an old friend/classmate who is now a celebrity of some kind -- actress/model/singer -- reminding her that "If you ever get back to / Hackensack / I'll be here for you." Sounds like she wasn't even his girlfriend; they had a class together in high school, that's all. But even then, "you were in all my dreams." Ah, the torches we carry!

He's following her career, wistfully, from afar: "I saw you talkin' / To Christopher Walken / On my TV screen." (Score points just for the Christopher Walken name check.) Then he shyly catches her up on what he's been up to: "I used to work in a record store / Now I work for my dad / Scraping the paint off of hardwood floors / Hours are pretty bad." That's how life slowly closes in on you, isn't it?

This guy is just so sweet, gradually sliding into his middle-class mid-American dead-end life. The one thing that keeps him going is the thought of that girl out in L.A. She might still remember him now, but odds are, in five years she won't. And that's why the refrain is so poignant: "But I will wait for you / As long as I need to / If you ever get back to Hackensack / I'll be here for you."

We kinda know she'll never come back; hey, he kinda knows it too. But a guy can hope, can't he?

This isn't a love song, really -- it's a song about modern American discontent, in a culture that teaches us that celebrity is all that matters. And this guy can't be happy in Hackensack so long as he's still yearning after The Girl Who Made It Big.

Suburban angst?  You bet, even though there's no drama or despair.  The track's sound is bouncy, light -- a soft drum track ticking along, the hooky guitar line, Collingwood's slightly flat boyish vocals, those dreamy falsetto back-ups on "I will wait for you." Our pal's life is tripping gently along just like this song. It's not horrible, it's just not . . . Special. And we were all promised Special, dammit.

Now if only the myriad 20-somethings whose life this song describes even knew this song existed . . .

1 comment:

NickS said...

I know you've said you can't listen to Bruce Springsteen anymore, but thinking of songs about New Jersey reminded me that "Jersey Girl" is one of my favorite songs that he's done, and that the verse that wrote (adding on to Tom Waits' song) is lovely (even though the lines which rhyme "tired" and "uninspired" are weak) and feels like a heartfelt tribute to working class Jersey.

I see you on the street and you look so tired
I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired
When I come by to take you out to eat
you're lyin' all dressed up on the bed baby fast asleep

Go in the bathroom and put your makeup on
We're gonna take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom's
I know a place where the dancing?s free
Now baby won't you come with me