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Veterans prove that they're no pop squirts

There's a strange theory which gets thrown about occasionally that some bands are too clever for their own good. Personally, it's one I've never subscribed to as it usually involves elevating musical primitives above artists who are trying to stretch themselves in whatever way they can.

Not that there's anything wrong with taking the simple route, but there are times when it rankles to have college-boy journos slumming it by lauding the rough lads at the expense of more adventurous acts.

This reached a ludicrous peak when Oasis disappeared up their own noses with the eulogised Be Here Now, while Blur were forging ahead and Damon Albarn was planning such diverse projects as Chinese operas and cartoon-based supergroups. Anyway, in recent years one of the criticisms which has been consistently levelled at the great Fountains of Wayne is that they're perhaps a tad too smart to be accepted by the masses.

Well, FoW just happen to be masters of the power pop art and if, after 15 years and five studio albums, they've failed to find the audience their crafted and, yes, clever songs surely deserve, then that's the wider world's loss and not theirs.

Their eponymous 1996 debut remains one of the most concise and clear- sighted power pop albums ever made. With the exuberant Radiation Vibe kicking things off and the ghostly Everything's Ruined closing proceedings less than 40 minutes later, it's a perfect collection of witty, hook-laden songs.


Co-composers Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger are the kind of irritatingly gifted songwriters who, like Neil Finn, seem incapable of penning a song which doesn't have a gripping melody. That their lyrics are also mini-movies which relate scenarios with the minimum of fuss and the maximum effect only makes it more mysterious as to why the Fountains aren't truly huge.

Well, with Sky Full of Holes Collingwood and Schlesinger have gone and done it again, a baker's dozen of doozies which makes one's jaw drop at how utterly effortless they can make writing and playing power pop sound. Teenage disasters at a holiday home propels The Summer Place, Richie and Ruben tells the story of a pair of chancers and they even get to subvert the cliches of the road song on the wistful, country-tinged A Road Song, a difficult trick which they manage with consummate ease.

And while Fountains of Wayne ooze class and craft they're not in any way distant and that's what makes them one of my favourite bands. >george byrne

Sky Full of Holes is released today on LoJinx Records