FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE/OWSLEY
"A man's gotta eat," Will Owsley recently told Rolling Stone, explaining why he'd played guitar for country diva Shania Twain. Both he and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, 60s popsters at heart, have done their share of industry hackwork: Owsley spent a year and a half backing Amy Grant after his band, the Semantics, was dropped by Geffen and its album shelved; Schlesinger, who cranked out "That Thing You Do!" for the film of the same name, followed up the first Fountains of Wayne album with Ivy, a vapid vehicle for chic chanteuse Dominique Durand. None of this should matter, really--the music is what counts, and after all, the Beatles' true legacy was making rock 'n' roll a comfortable middle-class career--but it helps explain how both acts can turn out incredibly catchy tunes with the quantity and staying power of soap bubbles. Utopia Parkway (Scratchie/Atlantic), the second release by Fountains of Wayne, picks up where the band's wonderful debut left off; Schlesinger and songwriting partner Chris Collingwood sketch more cute vignettes of teenagers in the suburbs of New York City, with winking references to Korn, Metallica, Puff Daddy, and .38 Special. But the pair's irony and nostalgia ultimately cheapen their lovely melodies: only "A Fine Day for a Parade," a portrait of a lonely, bourbon-sipping old woman, suggests that these 31-year-olds might have more to tell us than what went down at the senior prom. Owsley (Giant), the eponymous Alabama native's first album, draws heavily on the early 70s work of Todd Rundgren and Paul McCartney. Like McCartney, Owsley can hit the bull's-eye with story songs like "Coming Up Roses," but like so much of the ex-Beatle's solo work, cliched lovelorn tunes like "Oh No the Radio" and childhood reminiscences like "Good Old Days" have only their hooks to fall back on. Rounding out the bill is Imperial Teen, a band previewed in these pages the last time it came to town. Power-pop fans won't see a better bill all summer--and if you ask me, that's a damn shame. Thursday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. J.R. JONES
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Josheph Cultice/Christy Bush.