Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood have a reputation as pop lightweights, and it's not entirely undeserved; they can't resist the temptation of the easy chorus, the pumped-up guitar, the routine dynamic shift. But their words, which couch pathos in humor, have rarely been as glib as the music. On the band's third album, Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve), they depict a middle-class north Jersey suburbia that's every bit as soul numbing as the drudgery Bruce Springsteen's blue-collar heroes struggle to escape. But the desperation of Schlesinger and Collingwood's characters is quieter, their resignation deeper--tramps like them, baby, are just too bored to run. "Hackensack" is a mash note to a local girl who made good from the schlub who stayed behind; the budding alcoholic who narrates "Bright Future in Sales" vows "I'm gonna get my shit together" and then downs his umpteenth whiskey sour. The characters are so consistently delusional you start to question the perspectives of even the apparently lucid ones--the only skin coming to the kid in "Stacy's Mom" (he thinks she might dig him) is a slap in the face. Schlesinger and Collingwood also show genuine insight into the rationalizations that keep people going: the sentiments of the home-alone partyers of "Fire Island" ("We're old enough by now / To take care of each other") say more about the naive faith that underpins teen hedonism than any WB soap has yet. The sugary quality of the music suggests that the occasional flight from reality isn't just forgivable but necessary. In context the Fountains' gargantuan hooks and summery pop progressions don't seem facile; they're the jolts of pleasure that are the least these people deserve. To render these confused lives in a minor key would be downright cruel. Thursday, July 17, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joseph Cultice.