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Radiation Vibe

Kid rock: beatkeeper Rachel Trachtenburg
photo: Cary Conover
Kid rock: beatkeeper Rachel Trachtenburg

If the Republican sweep was a manifestation of suburban consumer paranoia and the confusion of the opposition, no power-pop band is better built to soundtrack the solace of the misguided and the defeated than Fountains of Wayne. In front of a quickly sold-out Bowery Ballroom the second week of November, New York suburbia's resident Greek chorus didn't stray from the pathos of smiley-faced dead-end existence, or from the crunchy hooks that underpin the unmanageable desires and stilted emotional ambition portrayed in their songs. Instead, FoW haunted the audience with these themes. In light of the recent elections it seemed very "this is what you want, this is what you get."

Like voters scared straight, the outer-boroughs-based characters in Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger's songs are convinced of how the world works. They know their place, that they get what they paid for, and have memorized the late-night LIRR/NJT schedules on which their life cycles run. But FoW's charms as pop architects hint at something else entirely. Inside their puns, bridges, and the quietly tunneled backup vocals lie liberation and hope. Back in the Clinton era, when Fountains were sadly dismissed as pleasant alt-pop ephemera for the radio-guided worker bees, this seemed ironically cute. Now, it seems crucial.

Apparently their rabid audience agrees. The band's first NYC show in three-plus years had a slight sense of a town meeting, if only because anyone in attendance could well have been the lyrics’ beautiful loser. The slightly countryish new items on the agenda (new album next year) were rightfully treated with attentive respect. And old favorites like "Sink to the Bottom" and "Leave the Biker" were sung along with lustily, like the Main Street Tavern jukebox hits they always should've been. And who knows, the way things are going, humming "Utopia Parkway" may be the only joyful distraction those of us forced to drive the Bush-constructed highway to hell will soon have. —Piotr Orlov

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