It's hard not to chuckle over "Stacy's Mom," a song detailing one boy's unrequited love for his girlfriend's mother.
But don't let lines like "Since your dad walked out, your mom could use a guy like me," said from the perspective of a hormone-raging teen, divert from the infectious hooks and melody. There's nothing funny about this band's dedication to crafting good songs.
"I think it might be unintentionally funny," singer/guitarist Chris Collingwood said of the humor found in the single as well as the sardonic "Bright Future in Sales" and stream-of-consciousness construction "Mexican Wine," all from their latest album, Welcome Interstate Managers. "I don't think we go out of our way to make jokes. Certain situations might be humorous, but we're not like They Might Be Giants or 'Weird' Al [Yankovic]. Hopefully, it's not funny to the point of novelty."
Any fan can gladly explain that FoW are witty, sure, but also sensitive, clever, endearing and deep, often all in the same song. But that's not to say that there's nothing funny about Collingwood and his songwriting partner, multi-instrumentalist Adam Schlesinger. From their band's name, taken from (what else) an outdoor-fountain store in the North Jersey town of Wayne, to back-catalog tunes like "Laser Show," which name-checks the members of Metallica, and "Red Dragon Tattoo," in which Collingwood claims to "look a little more like that guy from Korn," FoW's cheekiness is tempered by their deft ability to reel in ears with more hooks than a macramé class.
Nowhere is this blend more apparent than in the latter portion of Welcome Interstate Managers. The song "Hackensack" is a hometown boy's heart-wrenching lament for his teenage-crush-turned-movie-star that drops Christopher Walken's name, and "Fire Island" is a coming-of-age remembrance about house parties thrown while the folks were away. Further on, the band even breaks away from its traditional power pop to venture into quirky realms, country songs and piano ballads.
"We wanted to make a very varied record," Schlesinger said, "and we're interested in a lot of different kinds of music. On this record we thought it would be fun to try all those different things rather than force ourselves to make a record that was all kind of the same thing. ... In the end, we just felt like it would end up still sounding like our band as long as it was something that we wrote and Chris was singing, and hopefully we would get away with it."
The combination of cute and clever, time-honored and relatively experimental is paying off. "Stacy's Mom," perhaps thanks to the hilarious video that features supermodel Rachel Hunter (see "'Your Mom's Hot!': Fountains of Wayne Nab Rachel Hunter For Smokin'-Mama Homage"), is the band's biggest hit single since "Radiation Vibe" from 1996's self-titled debut. And Welcome Interstate Managers has them selling more albums per week than ever before (8,000).
Success, however, hasn't barred the longtime friends and bandmates from some affable ribbing.
"Adam will be better able to tell you how 'Stacy's Mom' came about," Collingwood explained. "And if he said that he slept with my mom, that's not true. He's just still mad about the whole me-sleeping-with-his-mom thing."