Mar 112009

I mentioned this in passing the other day but felt strongly enough about it that I was compelled to jump up on the Main Stage and make my apology loud and clear.

[clear throat and project]

Fountains of Wayne: I am sorry. I am sorry that I called you one of the biggest drop offs in rock. I am sorry that I have gone out of my way to say that following your self-titled debut, you sucked hard.

I was wrong and I’m sorry.

It’s just that, well, I loved your first album so much and your second one, Utopia Parkway, sucked so bad that I chucked you over the cliff. I gave up and bad mouthed you to anyone that would listen.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by throwing XTC over the cliff after Nonesuch only to come crawling back to Apple-Venus vol. 1.

But nooooooooo.

I recently heard Bright Future in Sales on the radio and thought I’d give you another shot. You see, I wanted to keep loving you but it was just so hard after what felt like a betrayal.

(no decent vid. sorry.)

Even the NFL forgave and if those tough guys are man enough to man-up, then I can too:

Oh my god you guys! Welcome Interstate Manager is like soooooo good you guys. What was a I thinking?! How could I stay mad at you.

I am sorry.

Although I did just get your latest release Traffic and Weather, and well it seems to kinda suck. But I’m not giving up on you guys. Please don’t give up on me.

[wipe single tear. wince wistfully. saunter offstage.]

Feel free to agree with me or better yet, make your own rock apology.


  91 Responses to “RTH Confessional: Mea Culpa Edition”

  1. I dunno, I kinda liked a lot of Utopia Parkway, apart from the big hit, “Stacey’s Mom”. I think I saw them at The Bowery Ballroom around that time, & they were good live, too. When the next one came out, though, I started to get the feeling that EVERY album was going to be, “More Songs About Being an Office Drone & Commuting”(even though I agree, it is better than Utopia Pkwy). They can still manage a few good pop tunes per disc, but the subject matter of most became a rote shtick VERY quickly. I bought the 1st three, but doubt I’ll keep up with them much in the future, unless they pull out something REALLY surprising. I’m not holding my breath.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    I can’t join you in the apology to FoW. I loved the first album and have felt everything since was a bunch of cynical, hand-holding power pop best described by Bobbyb’s fictional album title. However, as I read your heartfel apology, Sammy, a lone tear appeared in my right eye.

    I must apologize to Elvis Costello for King of America, which for a good 5 years I marked as the beginning of the end of his Rock Superpowers. However, there eventually came a day when I realized that, although I still didn’t LOVE the album, there was something artistically valid in the approach he tried on that one. I embraced most of the recordings on KoA and then resumed a long string of disappointing purchases with each new Costello release. I’m sorry, King of America. You were the “respectable mid-70s Paul Simon album” by Elvis. You were not deserving of the scorn I heaped upon you.

  3. sammymaudlin

    Stacey’s Mom is on Interstate Manager. It was released in 2003 so it’s hard to tell if they were ahead of the porn curve or merely milking the MILF train.

    Mod: Congratulations on your unburdening. Like you with FoW, I can’t come to any sort of terms with KoA but I deeply understand your feelings and they are welcome here, where you are loved unconditionally.

  4. I like Traffic & Weather (2007), just not as much as FOW. Have to say I don’t own the ones between them.

    I did SEE them in 2004 and they were a very good live band (and played most of the 1st record)

  5. Mr. Moderator

    I think I saw FoW the same year, jungleland2, whenever “Stacy’s Mom” first hit. They were a fine, mini-arena rock band, and I really liked hearing the first-album songs live. I was reminded of my first arena-rock concert: The Cars with Greg Kihn Band opening – both bands playing spirited note-for-note takes on their hits!

  6. Oops! Well, as the kids say, “my bad” on the “Stacey’s Mom” timeline. Nevertheless, while I’m not as seemingly vehement concerning FoW as Mr. Mod, my overall point remains the same. The subject matter seems a bit of a shtick.

  7. underthefloat

    My experience with them as “one time and done with them” experience (ok I know that’s not really the point of this thread) is as a live act. The leads both seemed like they would rather be any place on earth but on stage performing. They seemed a bit to bored and a bit to snarky to me. Maybe I was reading it wrong but it left me with a feeling like I seen as much show from them as my sleep cycle would ever allow.
    Dull, dull, dull.

    Did I mention dull?

  8. sammymaudlin

    No one has anything they want to get off their chest? No band or album that you trashed only to later on learn to appreciate.

    Well isn’t that special?!

  9. saturnismine

    the first time i saw that nfln commercial (which was also the first time i heard that song), i was baked out of my gord on a VERY pleasant football sunday afternoon. it damn near knocked me — an incurable football geek who gets misty eyed about obscurities like the ‘sea of hands’ play — off my chair. i liked the song, too…probably would like it even without the awesome visuals.

    confession: of embarrassment at hearing that it was ‘fountains of wayne’, a band i had summarily dismissed based on their name, which i find egREEEEEEgiously lame.

    you could prety much say the same thing about the song “that thing you do”, which was written by their main songwriter dude, yeah?

    further confession: i still can’t bring myself to buy a record by these guys. the rest of you seem to take them seriously.

    will someone PLEASE absolve me?

  10. mockcarr

    I’m sorry that at my age I’m more interested in hearing songs about the drudgery of work than about that elusive girl who was a bitch 25 years ago.

  11. I just took a gander at “Utopia Pkwy”, & there ARE some songs I think are good:

    Red Dragon Tattoo
    Hat & Feet (I like the Looney Toons imagery)
    A Fine Day For A Parade
    Laser Show
    Must Be Summer
    &, Denise (kinda, sorta).

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    I got a WHOLE ALBUM for you, mockcarr!

  13. FOW – first album was almost glued into my player when it came out. They are a fun live band, and their output has been pretty uneven since – and this has been pretty much covered by above posts. I would choose “interstate managers” as a runner up to the first album. I think it would work better with four less songs, and I find the token “country style” song on each album to be pretty mundane. Thought the last album was a turkey, but worth owning for the tune, “Strapped for Cash”, alone.

    An album I slagged and came to appreciate later – the first Rhett Miller solo album. It is so under-produced, it seemed bare, and the songs are so simple. But it has since grown on me, and I think it was the last time Jon Brion came close to “rocking” instead of trying to be “mad scientist”. His second solo album has fuller production, and doesn’t have the same character or charm (for me).

  14. 2000 Man

    Ick. I don’t care for Fountains of Wayne at all. Good on ya for trying again after writing them off. If I dislike the next Kings of Leon album as much as their last one, I’ll be writing them off, and it’s damned hard to get back in my good graces later on.

    I think Captain Beefheart would fit in here for me. I saw the cover of Trout Mask Replica at a friend’s and I thought I had to hear it. I hated it is all I remember. I thought it was just too weird. Then a few years ago I was in a local record store and Safe As Milk was on and I was really digging it, so I asked what it was. The owner asked me if I liked it, what I liked about it and stuff like that. Then he told me what it was and I felt like I had failed the Pepsi Challenge and had to admit that I really liked what I was hearing. I bought Safe As Milk that day, and I still have it. I think it’s a kick ass album, but I also have heard it’s the only one like that.

    That’s pretty lame and I haven’t explored any further, but I think I’ll check out Lick My Details Off, Baby one of these days, because I try to be open minded about this stuff, but in practice I think I lean towards the stuff I think I’ll like. Even then, I get a dud sometimes.

  15. sammymaudlin

    I’m sorry that at my age I’m more interested in hearing songs about the drudgery of work than about that elusive girl who was a bitch 25 years ago.

    I hear ya. I fell in love with my future wife in high school. So I never really dated. Never had my heart broken. But I have had lots of shitty jobs and shitty bosses.

    If I saw an album called “More Songs About Being an Office Drone & Commuting” I would buy it instantly whether I knew the artist or not.

  16. diskojoe

    2000 Man: On Capt. Beefheart, what you should do is ge the Rhino comp The Dust Blows Forward. That & Safe As Milk is all the Beefheart you’ll need.

    Mr. Mod: 1. Didn’t you think that Goodbye Cruel World was when Elvis C was starting to lose it? I thought King of America was a return of form after that turd of an album.
    2. On the subject of the Cars, how were they on stage? To me they seemed be one of those bands who did great on record but didn’t have that great of a live reputation.

  17. Funny enough, I grabbed my copy of FoW for my road trip to Memphis this past weekend. It’s been a good while since I heard it. I got it as a promo when I worked at the recco sto.

    I enjoyed it. I was reminded of why I liked it to begin with. I never did Utopia, but I did get a copy of Interstate Managers (another promo, different store). I liked it okay, but I honestly don’t remember it too well. Maybe I’ll give it a new spin this week.

    A side note, I did get to catch Ben Kweller and the Watson Twins in Memphis on Saturday night. He was pretty good. Had a strong following of really young girls, which was a little weird. That completed my “holy trinity” of Bens (I’ve seen all three separately). The Watson Twins were pretty excellent, too. If I was savvy, I would have had them follow me back to Hernando to our little studio and record some vocals. Instead, I just got them to sign my record. Maybe next time.


  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Sammy — have I got an album for YOU. Find a way to get me a mailing address, and I’ll send one to you. Or I may put it up on an FTP server where you can grab it.

  19. Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…

    I think the first three FOW songs all have their moments. I saw them live and they were note perfect so it seemed a little uninspired. Also, the set was only about 50 minutes and they were the headliners.

    My problem with them is that they are almost too clever with their lyrics and production. It’s the same problem that I have with a lot of English pop bands (like xtc) that I’ve mentioned here before. All head and no heart.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    Diskojoe asked:

    Mr. Mod: 1. Didn’t you think that Goodbye Cruel World was when Elvis C was starting to lose it? I thought King of America was a return of form after that turd of an album.

    Goodbye Cruel World was so bad I was willing to look the other way. We all have our bad days. I thought Punch the Clock was relatively weak, but I blamed that on the producers. The songs were good enough.

    2. On the subject of the Cars, how were they on stage? To me they seemed be one of those bands who did great on record but didn’t have that great of a live reputation.

    In retrospect, they were terribly boring, but I was 16, it was my first big concert, every song sounded exactly like it did on the record, they knew when to step up to the mic, when to back off – just so! I was simply dazzled by the fact that they knew how to be a rock band on a big stage.

  21. alexmagic

    I think I’ve established myself here as someone who generally tries to avoid the Sincerity Fallacy trap and the “but this time he means it!” thing, but I can’t think of another band that needs to commit more/cut the bullshit than Fountains of Wayne. It’s obvious there’s a ton of talent there, but it always sounds like they’re just doing jokes instead of songs, which come off as being really pale and lifeless.

    Adam Schlesinger has been pretty successful writing songs for other people and obviously knows how to write a hook, it’s just that he and the band never seem all that interested in delivering them convincingly.

    My confession, as I’ve said here before: it took me over two decades to get over whatever my hang-ups were about Neil Young.

  22. sammymaudlin

    All head and no heart.

    Heart trumps for me as well, much of the time. Every now and then though, I just want to lay back and enjoy some good head.

    Hrrundi- File Share info on the way. Don’t spam me bro.

  23. Heart trumps for me as well, much of the time. Every now and then though, I just want to lay back and enjoy some good head.

    I assume you’re being semi-serious here, double entrendre aside. I like lots of music that’s mostly heady. Although what I really want to know is: Why is head music a pejorative for some people (and heart music a positive)? And how does one tell the difference between the two?

  24. I don’t know how you can tell other than gut feeling. And as with most things, these are just generalities so everything falls somewhere on a spectrum.

    Furthermore, there’s plenty of heart music that bites it. I’m sure those American Idol people aren’t putting a whole lot of thought into their overwrought Aretha Franklin-isms.

    Bit in general, I guess “head” music is that which feels contrived as opposed to organic. This is not related to the effort that it took to make the record, by the way. I’m speaking about how it sound, not how they made it sound that way.

  25. Mr. Moderator

    Oats asks:

    Why is head music a pejorative for some people (and heart music a positive)? And how does one tell the difference between the two?

    Indeed, but I think this ties into society’s take on hookers. When is the last time a movie or book celebrated a “hooker with razor sharp mind?”

    I simply think that for many of us it’s hard to deny the appeal a piece of art has on our emotions, whereas there are all sorts of reasons we might tear apart something appreciated on more of an intellectual foundation. You’re big bully if you make fun of me for secretly loving Neil Diamond’s “Shilo.” You’re a comrade if you tear into me and my high-brow interests for listening to the Art Bears’ Winter Songs, which I happen to be doing at the moment.

  26. Mr. Moderator

    That’s funny, bruinskip! Thanks.

  27. sammymaudlin

    Any music you enjoy must have some sort of emotion in it. At least for you. The fact that you “enjoy” it requires that.

    King Crimson’s Discipline is a pretty heady album for me but I find joy and awe in the construction.

  28. BigSteve

    Indeed, but I think this ties into society’s take on hookers. When is the last time a movie or book celebrated a “hooker with razor sharp mind?”

    I was going to suggest Ann Coulter, but she writes her own books to celebrate her mind.

    I don’t know about the hooker tie-in, but I think you could say that contemporary culture is deeply anti-intellectual. And the fact that art is directly connected to commerce in our society means that it is in the economic interest of artists to learn how to work on people’s emotions in order to get them to buy art. Look at how FoW used lust to sell a ton of records. Even in a non-artistic field like political commentary, Ann Coulter would be an anonymous blogger if she didn’t look the way she does, not to mention appealing to baser emotions in other ways.

    H.L. Mencken said “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

  29. Any music you enjoy must have some sort of emotion in it. At least for you. The fact that you “enjoy” it requires that.

    I’m trying to figure out what you mean here. If I feel an emotion from a piece of music, therefore that music must contain emotion, i.e. heart? I’m not sure I buy this.

    If one person finds joy in a King Crimson album, and the other finds a heartless Kentonite exercise, what does it mean when the latter person says “That music is all head, no heart.” Is s/he still right? Or does the first person have a valid argument if s/he says, “It must have heart, because it moves me”?

    I think it’s possible for mainly brainy music to move people anyway, without having much emotion in and of itself. How else to explain Randy Newman, The Magnetic Fields and Brian Eno?

  30. Mr. Moderator

    I’m telling you, Oats, the “head” classification is wheeled out when we need an excuse to be critical. I think it’s especially referred to when we want to be critical AND cover our own emotional ignorance or, more accurately, lack of emotional empathy.

    There is music, however, that is so clearly built around structure, patterns, obscure references, and the like – perhaps what we refer to as PROCK – that is built for intellectual enjoyment.

    Sometimes we simply say something is “head” music when it’s instrumental or “difficult.” You cite Eno, Oats, as an example of “brainy” music when he, in a 12-minute explanation, might argue that his approach is wholly intuitive.

  31. sammymaudlin

    what does it mean when the latter person says “That music is all head, no heart.”

    Means the emotion is subjective.

  32. I’m not talking about how the music makes people feel or how complicated it is.

    I’m simple talking about if it sounds like a disproportionate amount of effort went into the planning of it when compared to the effort that went into the performance.

    At the very least, I think that hrrundi has to know what I’m talking about.

  33. I think BigSteve hit the nail on the head here. It seems fitting that he (along with Oats and myself), at least as far as I know, are the only other Steely Dan fans on here. I think FoW are in many ways the modern version of either them or maybe even Sparks (another RTH whipping boy and for similar reasons; y’all just don’t get it).

    So anyway yeah I think a lot of the “head over heart” criticisms are directly in line with the anti-intellectual nature of contemporary culture. FoW (like Steely Dan and Sparks, just to cite a few examples) are not only brainy, full of obscure references and often take more than a few listens to sink in (FoW not so much because of their poppiness, but go with me here), but they’re detached from their subject matter. They’re not guys getting up there in torn blue jeans and singing about their lives. Nah, they’d rather write about middle managers with alcohol issues (“Bright Future in Sales”) or teenagers with pretensions of machismo and hopeless crushes (“Denise”), just to cite a few examples. I don’t see why this is a problem. I mean Bowie has said that the whole “get up there and sing your life” thing isn’t what he does and yet he doesn’t get criticized for it (though I do think this is one issue Mr. Mod *may* have with him despite the 30 excellent songs he often cites or whatever) nearly as often.

    So where were we? Oh yeah. FoW. I like the 1st 3 albums and like others, though that Traffic and Weather was a big old turkey except for its 1st single “Someone to Love”. Talk about mighty like a turd. Musically, I think the 1st album is best, but I think lyrically it’s a dry-run for Utopia Parkway and Welcome Interstate Managers. I think that’s where their lyrics (their main talent, IMO) really shine through. Now again, I like that snarky thing and I can see why others might not.

    Oh and I’ve seen them twice and agree that they’re kinda clinical, emotionless, whatever. I enjoyed it, but they’re definitely a studio band. Oh and the 2nd time I saw them, Ben Kweller opened!

    As far as Beefheart goes, get Clear Spot and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), 2000man. You’re not ready for Lick My Decals Off, Baby (at least not yet). Trust me. And the notion that a best of and Safe is Milk is all you need is heresy! You need everything except for the Tragic Band albums (which I’ve never heard).

  34. saturnismine

    welcome back berlyant!

    one thing: i’m an intellectual (with alphabet soup next to my name to prove it). naturally, i also despite the generally anti intellectual bent of american culture. and i prefer balance in my music. i like smart stuff (clever production, tricky lyrics, profound lyrics, sounds and music that are mimetic of whatever the lyrics tell me the song is about), but brother, if it aint got heart, NONE of that stuff matters. in other words, since balance is rarely struck, if i HAVE to choose, I’ll take heart over head in my rock / pop music…in a heartbeat.

  35. 2000 Man

    Thanks for the Capt. Beefheart advice, guys! Which way I end up going will probably have more to do with what the record store has in stock, but I’ve heard other people say Clear Spot might be a logical next step, and I almost always like Rhino collections.

    I’ll go to the mat for Steely Dan. I always liked them and I still buy their new albums, which come out incredibly sporadically. Their solo stuff isn’t as good. I think there’s a lot of “head” music that’s worthwhile, but I don’t find FoW all that heady. They just seem clinical to me. I don’t care much for their sense of humor, and I’m kind of the same way with Sparks.

    But I can listen to Zappa sometimes, I like Yes and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did a couple albums I really get into. Everyone is in tune and in the right key and the production is top flight. I can understand why certain head music doesn’t appeal to people, because a lot of it doesn’t appeal to me, but when I get it I like it a lot.

    I think the “heart” music is more like The Stones. Their appeal is when it gets so loose it might fall off the track at any second, and then it just comes together and works. It sounds off the cuff, but they can knock songs around for years or roll six second parts of guitar overdubs over and over until it sounds just right. Mick Jagger doesn’t seem very sincere to me, but he sure knows how to sound like he is.

    That’s the music that’s definitely in my comfort zone, and I like a lot of lo fi aesthetics, but I try to avoid the sincerity fallacy, too. I don’t think I do that very well, but at least I usually avoid the backstory thing. I try to only care about what I think, but if I don’t try to listen to things other people are listening to, things would get pretty boring, and sometimes I have to really work at those things other people like. When it pays off it’s worth it.

  36. Man, you really can never tell where this crazy, funhouse of a Town Hall is gonna go next! We were talking about Fountains of Wayne, right? Okey Dokey. They’re a hooky pop band with somewhat clever/humorous lyrics (this being as subjective as what flavor of ice cream is the best). They swiped their silly band name from an actual lawn & garden fountain business in Wayne, NJ. The bulk of their song lyrics tend to deal with mid-level, white collar, bridge & tunnel type of characters, which may or may not strike you as gimmicky. What else really needs to be said? Were they ever really that great OR that awful? Pleasant enough little pop/rock band is all. They just aren’t extreme enough one way or another to warrant all this heart over mind conjecture (see the above statement on ice cream flavors).

    Getting back to the original point of the thread, I bought The Dead Boys “Young, Loud & Snotty” when I was 15 & HATED it. REALLY hated it. Two years later, I listened again, & really liked it, & still do. Also, I never gave Led Zep a chance until I was in my 30s. Now, despite the “Lord of the Rings” lyricism & Plant’s sometimes screechy vocal stylings, I quite dig ’em.

    Oh yeah, 2000man, I’d agree that you should definitely go for “Clear Spot” next if you’re looking for accessibility, & I’m a pretty big fan of The Captain.

  37. saturnismine

    so bobby, you mean to tell us that even though rth-ers have found a lot to say about this head vs. heart issue as it pertains to FoW, they actually don’t warrant it?

    if so, how could so many of the great minds of rth be wrong about this?

    enlighten me.

  38. BigSteve

    The heart vs. head thing is still bothering me. I was thinking that a musician might say he chooses heart over head, as saturn did (if he had to), on the basis of the idea that everyone has access to emotion, but not everyone is capable of intellectualizing. But aren’t there just as many people who are frozen up emotionally and incapable of appreciating music (or much of anything else) emotionally?

    But saturn seems to be favoring heart over head as a listener too, at least for rock/pop music. Is it because rock/pop is uniquely capable of conveying emotion but less capable of functioning in an intellectual capacity? Is it because saturn enjoys music as an emotional outlet, while, say, paintings might be experienced more intellectually?

    I haven’t made up my own mind about this. I sometimes think that music that tickles my ears does so in a way that is neither head nor heart. I know that I don’t like the feeling of having my strings pulled (this is especially true with films) and art that feels contrived doesn’t work. But I also know that I like some kinds of music like ambient techno precisely because they lack predetermined emotional content.

    Maybe I’ve gotten too far away from Fountains of Wayne. I like the way their records sound, as long as I don’t have to think about them too much.

  39. Mr. Moderator

    Berlyant, comparing FoW to Steely Dan is a major insult to the latter. And Sparks? I don’t know, man. You’re going to need to rethink this. For instance, please provide one “obscure reference” in a Fountains of Wayne song. They’re fun and clever enough, but isn’t “the Dan” supposed to be somehow subversive and intellectual? I’d let FoW babysit my kids.

  40. Mr. Moderator

    2K, I don’t know if you checked it out last year, but I tried to convince Sammy to reconsider Beefheart with the following post and songs, many of which are from Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid:

  41. Thanks, Sat, for concisely summing up what I was trying to get at. I would just reiterate that it’s never really an all or nothing choice, but I would rather hear a song that is “head” deficient than heart deficient.

    I also think that 2K Man nailed it when he described head music as being clinical. Whether or not the music is complicated is beside the point; it’s that the music detached and overly intellectualized.

    As smart and slick as Steely Dan is, I don’t think that they’re egregiously over on the head side of the spectrum.

  42. Mr. Moderator

    What is “head” music “detached” from other than, perhaps, the heart? To me, the best head music is attached firmly to the head, allowing the head to take flight. I agree with the need for balance between head and heart. As I think about it now, with all my hang ups and dogmatic tendencies, I guess I need a sense that my hooker’s got a razor sharp mind more than a heart of gold. I want to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee with my record in the morning, should it stay the night.

  43. That’s why hookers should not spend the night. It’s a calculated transaction with no emotional attachment.

  44. saturnismine

    yeah….you’re right cdm, we shouldn’t confuse slick production with lack of heart. not that i’m a regular listener to steely dan, or i would want to listen to them with the express purpose of finding emotional release or sympathy, but there are often lyrical themes in steely dan music that “get to me,” even through the veneer of “smooth chords on the car radio”.

    also, we shouldn’t confuse ‘head’ music with “muscle” music. by muscle music, i mean “chops rock”. a band that’s chops heavy, like, say ‘yes’ can still pack alot of heart into their music. on the other hand, the talking heads, who are not known for their chops, are a much ‘headier’ band…much more intellectual, arty, in their approach.

    again, i think finding a balance is the key. and in the FoW songs i’ve heard, i think where they lose out in the ‘heart’ category is where they are being humorous, smart alecky, and insincere.

    it is indeed telling that one of their most emotionally connected SOUNDING songs really has no ‘heart’ at its core…it’s a song about football, with no apparent intimacy expressed towards an individual, no intense emotions for or against any social phenomenon. when you get right down to it, that song doesn’t even express emotion towards football. it just sounds like it might. that itself is a form of emotional detachment. so i can see why people are saying that they are making ‘head’ music.

  45. BigSteve

    So we’re concerned about music that lacks heart, that is too oriented to the head. (And I remember when ‘head music’ meant trippy.) What would be an example of erring in the other direction, Seasons in the Sun or something?

  46. I now submit that “music that lacks heart” as a pejorative really means “music that lacks commitment.” Music that aims for the heart and/or head that seems to be made with some sort of commitment (a sense of purpose, direction, what-have-you; this is NOT the same as Winner Rock) is more likely to find favor with people (though not necessarily a lot of them). Of course “commitment” is yet another nebulous term.

  47. I don’t think that “commitment” captures it either. You can have someone who is very committed and yet goes about his work in a very clinical manner. Also, that creates an implication that music with heart lacks commitment.

    I think that Sat has it down, and since he’s a doctor and all, I think that we should consider his take on it to be definitive.

  48. Mr. Moderator

    May I say how much I enjoy the banter that goes on in a thread like this?

    Sat, I’m digging the thought of Muscle Rock. Lou Reed has gone through phases in which he longs for some full-blown Muscle Rock.

  49. saturnismine

    just some quick thoughts. cdm, your doctor (and all!) comment made coffee shoot through my nose. ouch.

    I love BigSteve’s question, because i was imagining that really REALLY crappy hardcore, or maybe really sappy emo stuff are great examples of music that errs on the side of too much heart. at least “seasons in the sun” has a certain amount of deliberation going for it.

    mod, i had a feeling i was playing into your wheelhouse with the concept of muscle rock.

    we need to make charts that include muscle rock, winner rock, etc., and publish them.

  50. saturnismine

    and of course…we are using our heads way too much in our discussion of this stuff.

    there’s ‘heart’ listening and ‘head’ listening.

    if i’m in the car, and a steely dan song comes on the radio, and i’m not ready for the lyrics, and they hit me emotionally, that’s ‘heart’ listening, right?

    but if i’m saying to myself, ‘hmmm…is there a nice balance of ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in this steely dan song? let’s have a listen and think about it”, then i’m being a ‘head’ listener.

    these approaches to listening distort our conclusions.

    in other words, in the end, i don’t know what the fuck i’m talking about.

    that’s what a ph.d gets ya.

    time to g ogrow a beard and make obscure pronouncements about the past in a room full of college students.

  51. I heard the Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” recently and it struck me how understated the emotions are. The character is in a desperate situation, but rather than tell us how he feels, is only concerned with getting out.

    The song goes against what I would call a Hollywood approach: where time magically stops and we get a sort of soliloquy about the character’s feelings. In real life, people don’t have time to say how they really feel; they’re too busy trying to get by. Often, they are confused about how they feel at a given moment.

    So, “heart” versus “head” is a little too reductive in my book. In many instances, such as with Randy Newman, the emotions are in the context of the song. The feelings are understated, making them all the more powerful, but you have to have the “head” to pick them up.

  52. I think you just answered the question you put to me, Saturn.

  53. saturnismine

    don’t cop out on me, bobby bee. your statement that FoW “just aren’t extreme enough one way or another to warrant all this heart over mind conjecture” doesn’t mesh at all with what i’ve been saying.

  54. Shouldn’t you be off growing your beard? Pest.

    OK, If we’re speaking SPECIFICALLY about FoW, you’re right, it doesn’t quite mesh. I just really don’t think that FoW ARE that extreme a case for the heart over head debate. Was that 1st album really that earth-shaking to some of you? I liked it, but not enough to feel SO betrayed by the subsequent releases. Also, I don’t feel the heart/head disconnect with FoW is anymore pronounced than any of a hundred other bands in the marketplace.

    I would say, more insidiously, a band like U2 ARE much more apt candidates for this debate. To me, they sell themselves as this messianic, bunch of deeply caring, feeling troubadours with a message of hope, when they are really just another bunch of model fucking, designer clad, Rock businessmen (You could probably cure DEATH if you sold off Bono’s collection of designer eyewear), spouting slogans of nebulous import. That, to me, is far & away more extreme in its cynicism & heart-disconnect than anything a little group of wise-ass pop craftsmen like FoW has ever done (which is all right there, out in the open), & it’s what I think & feel every fucking time I’m exposed to U2’s music & image. Of course, you are all free to think & feel differently.

    In the end, my general idea was that, once again, it’s the four blind men describing the elephant/one man’s trash is another man’s treasure/ this isn’t an argument. yes it is. No it isn’t, etc., etc. Now, that DOES sort of sound like what you said towards the end of your last post. It all depends upon what each individual picks up on when listening to a given piece of music. What’s heartless to one may be very moving to another, & what seems overly cerebral/calculated to one may seem just clever/witty to another. And vice versa.

  55. (You could probably cure DEATH if you sold off Bono’s collection of designer eyewear

    A strong contender for Comment of the Month!

  56. Oats, Thanks, man. I didn’t have my usual roomful of writers to help me, either. It’s, what(?), Thursday, & those useless chimps are taking ANOTHER 2 1/2 hour lunch! At least I proved that I don’t need those Harvard geeks! I still got it, baby!

  57. BigSteve

    I think it’s a big mistake to judge an artist’s music by their image and your idea of “how they sell themselves” to you. A mistake that can be difficult to avoid, but a mistake nonetheless.

    I think too some of the commentary of FoW is based on what they represent rather than what’s in their songs, a mistake I’ve also made periodically about other artists. It’s almost like a sociological critique.

    Also some people seem to think that irony is an indicator of a lack of heart. There is a kind of irony that undermines emotion, but isn’t snarkiness, which is a frequent charge against FoW, a kind of emotion, or is romantic love the only allowable emotion in rock/pop?

  58. Lately, about an hour of art rock on Sunday afternoon has really been speaking to my soul. Go figure.

    Heart and head, head and heart, whatever.

    It’s all about what you want and need and when you want and need it, and whether the music can deliver. Lately, the Stones got nothing I can use on a Sunday afternoon.

    When the heart and head discussion dies down, can we discuss the real and the fake? Or maybe they’re intertwined?

    Mad props though to Bobby B for calling out U2 as fake heart. We reach, brother.

  59. Thanks, MW.

    Big Steve, For me it’s hard, esp. at this point to separate U2’s music from their marketing. It’s kind of like The Stones for me now; it all just feels like product, & not much else. U2 just arrived at that point in a lot less time than it took The Stones. At least The Stones have a hefty back catalog of quality material.

    Forgetting that end of things, though, I never thought any of U2’s songs were much more than an easily remembered slogan (which, if looked at for more than a minute, didn’t mean much) tacked on to a load of lazily written piffle. Yet they’re perceived as saying BIG, MEANINGFUL things. They’re so falsely anthemic, it boggles my mind that they can be taken seriously. The reason I think they are is MARKETING. A whole week on Letterman, The Morning shows, Magazine covers. To me, it seemingly matters MORE to them than the music. That, in my eyes, is cynicism, & not FoW writing pop songs about office workers. I just wish FoW wrote a few less of those, because it’s pigeonholing them.

    Why having a sense of humor seems to negate the idea of having a heart has also baffled me. I’ve seen plenty written in The Hall concerning Randy Newman in this regard. Because he was a really good writer of satirical lyrics, that fact somehow meant he was just being too damn clever & didn’t feel anything? I feel exactly the opposite. Most good satire comes from a place of outrage at something the writer feels is wrong, a place of deep feeling, deep heart. That a satirist is able to use their smarts to present their outrage in a humorous manner is, as far as I can see, a perfect example of balancing head & heart. It’s been my experience that most people don’t “get” satire that way, esp. in music. It seems to go part & parcel with The Sincerity Myth. As if being at all satirical is JUST about being snarkey & mean: Heartless.

    Now, I’m not saying FoW is on the same level as the best Randy Newman or, say, Warren Zevon, any more than I’d compare those two cats to Twain or Moliere, but it’s a similar idea. Rather than going the obvious route all the time, they use humor & characters to get the message across. And, as I said before, as far as U2 goes, it’s just how they hit my head & heart. It seems calculated, cynical & empty to me, despite it’s caring veneer.

  60. Berlyant, comparing FoW to Steely Dan is a major insult to the latter. And Sparks? I don’t know, man. You’re going to need to rethink this. For instance, please provide one “obscure reference” in a Fountains of Wayne song. They’re fun and clever enough, but isn’t “the Dan” supposed to be somehow subversive and intellectual? I’d let FoW babysit my kids.

    OK Mr. Mod. First off, I didn’t say that FoW were anything like Steely Dan musically or that they should be considered rock legends like SD are or that they’re as good as SD (debatable; I like both but that’s objective). I was just pointing out that both use a similar approach of detachment (and occasionally satire, though not as obviously as say, Randy Newman, on “Sail Away” or something like that) and get punished for it in the exact way that bobbybittman noted in the post directly above here. I think he really gets it. Indeed, it’s as if love/romance (or non-satirical, straightforward political protest) are the only acceptable emotions in pop/rock.

    Now since you asked, here are a few obscure references in FoW songs. “Utopia Parkway” refers to a highway on Long Island, there are other (admittedly much less obscure) NYC-centric references on songs like “Survival Car” (a reference to Union Square) and “Denise” (references to the N train and Coney Island). I don’t think that’s their main thing, though. I just added “obscure references” as an addendum to the detachment, storytelling aspect of what they do. Oh and their very name comes from a lawn ornament/fountain store on Rt. 46 in Wayne, NJ, so there. 🙂

    As for Sparks, many of their songs are also sung from the point of view of other characters, many of which are as messed up in one way or another as the characters in a typical Steely Dan song. An obvious example include “Suburban Homeboy” (from Lil’ Beethoven).

  61. underthefloat

    Big Steve said: But aren’t there just as many people who are frozen up emotionally and incapable of appreciating music (or much of anything else) emotionally?

    I say yes.

    Sorry, I’m reading through this quicker then I’d like. But also we talk about emotional response being a subjective experience to us all and it is. It’s also probably more subjective to us all then defining and agreeing on what resonates as hitting the right note intellectually within a song. However, I still recall John Wesley Harding talking about how brilliant (for example) “Will you still love me tomorrow” was to him. Brilliant in it’s straight forward, simply stated “universal” message at that time anyway. That is songs sometimes may hit a simple “truth” that are rather heady in their own right.

    Had to type this quick so..hope it’s has a shred of sense within it….

  62. berlyant, Thanks for that. BTW, I mentioned the origin of FoW’s name in an earlier post, but I’m sure everyone thought I was just being snarkey.

  63. Mr. Moderator

    Berlyant and Bobbyb, we all know about the origin of FoW’s name by now, don’t we? That’s NOT akin to writing one of those nifty, subversive, truly detatched Steely Dan song that some people dig, is it?

    The geographical references FoW make, as you point out, are areas located in NEW YORK CITY: not obscure, not that personal, like Steely Dan referring to some dormitory at whatever college they attended, or whatever it is they refer to in their songs.

    I in no way suggested that you compared FoW to Steely Dan musically. What I was getting at is that, from what I can see as someone who only mildly appreciates “the Dan” in a detached way, FoW do not write lyrics with anywhere near the narrative depth of Steely Dan. Just because they write about “regular” characters in specific (if obvious) locations doesn’t mean they’re trafficking in what “the Dan” trafficked in. If anything, aren’t the lyrics of FoW – at their best – more like the kind of lyrics Ray Davies wrote? I think FoW write “nice” lyrics, lyrics that appreciate everyday life – whether I like the songs and lyrics or not. Sure, they’ve got some humor, but isn’t it always good humor? Steely Dan, from what I can tell, wrote smart-ass lyrics that were poking fun at people and society. Weren’t they all about being cool, or should I say writing about characters who thought they were cool, whether they were or not? That’s what I meant by “the Dan” being “subversive.” FoW, in my opinion, never approaches that tone.

    By the way, although I tire of FoW’s lyrical approach, not feeling like they have much to offer in their “character studies” beside the conventions of such lyric writing, what really bugged me about the band beginning with Utopia Parkway was that every song went on for 2 minutes longer than necessary. Then they got into all these late-70s power pop musical conventions. Man, I dug hearing Paul Collins’ Beat’s “Different Kind of Girl” and Braham Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams” as much as the next young dude circa 1978, but there’s only so much of that stuff I can take, especially when it starts coming off like an intelligent, formulaic career move more than some teenager’s idea of life and death, or at least getting one’s rocks off. That’s what really bugs me about FoW and why I consider them lacking heart: they play those songs like it’s a job. What desire is being expressed by 38 year olds writing “Stacy’s Mom”? This is a little different than sincerity fallacy stuff, I believe. Randy Newman doesn’t have to be sincere; I can tell he’s trying to make a point. He cares about something when doing his thing, whether I dig it or not. Fountains of Wayne might as well be sitting in a cubicle. After their first album they stopped bringing anything to the table, as far as I am concerned. I wouldn’t mind as much if I got the sense that they are writing their songs to express their desire to skin humans alive. Do you guys listen to an FoW song these days and feel like they care about anything? Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but I’m not going to pretend this stuff doesn’t matter to me.

  64. BigSteve

    Mod wrote:

    What desire is being expressed by 38 year olds writing “Stacy’s Mom”?

    The desire of the kid singing the song. It’s a character study written by 38 year olds, and I don’t really care what they feel. The feeling that’s important is in the song and in the listener, not the songwriter. A healthy middle-aged heterosexual male listener can listen to the song and feel nostalgic for the the adolescent lust the kid in the song is expressing. The song is humorous, so that listener might even feel slightly embarrassed for the kid, depending on how much he identifies with him. But the idea of fixating on whether the writers/performers “care” is mystifying. Why should I care what they’re feeling?

  65. Mr. Moderator

    I guess I must have a lot more trouble expressing what I’m trying to get at when I say stuff like this, BigSteve, than I’d like. Look, I don’t really care what the “character” is expressing in the case of that song and other songs by them following their first album. And I don’t really care what they think about their precious character. I care whether I’m getting some human information from the performers, not because I really care about them or need to feel I care about them but because if I don’t get some human spark or desire from the performers they’re a waste of my time.

    In the case of FoW, I don’t find evidence that they dig too deep intellectually OR emotionally. We’re talking about this imagined split between the head and the heart, but jeez, if you don’t have one or the other what do you have but PRODUCT and an endless loop of us going through the motions of writing and listening to songs about people going through the motions. I’m being a little harsh on Fountains of Wayne and anyone who gets a lot more out of them than I do, but I’m sick of pussyfooting around these notions of “head” and “heart” when we’ve got a perfect example of a band that seems to have little of either. What they lack may help us understand what it is we’ve gotten to talking about.

    Again, I’m not saying I expect a performer to “mean it man,” but I do like to get the feeling that the performers – and the performance – is something more than a construction. I like to think that the people behind the music can’t contain something vital about themselves. That’s something I like about people in real life. I could care less whether someone voted for Obama or McCain, whether they love Fountains of Wayne or not. I get a kick out of seeing whatever it is about any one of us not being able to be contained or smoothed over with whatever artifice we’ve adopted. Whenever I hear FoW these days I feel like they’ve “successfully” covered themselves – their core as interesting people – up. I don’t have time for it. If I met them at a party and got that vibe from them I’d walk away thinking something along the lines of, “Nice enough guys but not that interesting.” I hope this clarifies what I was trying to get at. I like music to suggest something about who we are more than who we want to be. Or maybe I’m just a humorless asshole.

  66. BigSteve

    I’m clearer on what you think (or feel?) about this now, Mod, but I think we just disagree. It seems to me you’re hung up on self-expression. I think good music can be made that way, but I just don’t think it’s the only way.

    You seem to believe that music is a reflection of the people who made it, and that that is essential to its charm. And I think that the art is completely separate from the artist, and that this is true even if the art is overtly and expressly emotional.

    With this approach, I can enjoy the new U2 album without worrying about who Bono is or whether the band are or aren’t spoiled rock stars. There are very beautiful sounds on it (though at times it does sound a bit labored over).

  67. Moddy, I’m sorry this is pissing you off so much, but I think there are greater crimes to be dealt with than those committed by FoW. No, They’re not on the level of Ray or Randy, but I just don’t find what they DO put out THAT offensive. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective, just as I (& others) have said several times, and several different ways, before. Who, exactly, are we to be the final word on what motivates the writers in that band. I’ve even stated that I could be totally wrong about U2, but going from the evidence at hand, any growth in THAT band has to do with what producer, or team of producers (Lillywhite, Lanois, Eno), that they have at hand. Looking at the live Letterman Show clips, it’s just business as usual, as far as I can see & hear. I see a bill of sale. Others may see more. That’s the way it goes, & that’s it for me on this topic.

  68. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve wrote:

    You seem to believe that music is a reflection of the people who made it, and that that is essential to its charm. And I think that the art is completely separate from the artist, and that this is true even if the art is overtly and expressly emotional.

    I’m glad I’ve made myself a little more clear – and certainly we don’t need to agree – but I don’t really separate the music from the musicians. In fact, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t really separate what I get out of the arts from what I get out of people. If either a work of art or a person gives off some “spark” for me, I’m down with it. When the work of art OR the person comes off too much like a canned presentation of what someone wants to project to me, I’m often bored by it. I don’t care about whether someone’s a “spoiled” rock star or not. I care about whether their music reveals something about LIFE. In other words, I’m looking for LIFE in music, and I think LIFE is bigger than either the music or the people (and machines) behind it. It’s really not that radical, but I know it’s highly subjective.

  69. But that’s what I’m talking about with FoW. I think that their lyrics are above average (certainly not on par with St. Elvis, but well written in any event), they write very catchy melodies, and the way the songs are produced sounds great.

    So what’s missing?

    They’d be tender, they’d be gentle and awful sentimental, regarding love and art. They’d be friends with the sparrows and the boy that shoots the arrows if they only had a heart.

  70. BigSteve

    Music has something to do with life, I mean LIFE? Weird.

  71. Mr. Moderator

    OK, I’m a big, bad bully. I’m all about breakfast cereal and board games. I’m sorry if I’ve killed anyone’s Fountains of Wayne buzz. Maybe I can’t get over how much I disliked Utopia Parkway after loving the simple joys of the band’s first album. Rock on, FoW!

  72. mockcarr

    cdm, Yip Harburg was great.

  73. sammymaudlin

    Much ado. But that’s we do eh?

    If I enjoy a song, a band then I’m getting some sort of emotional value and pleasure from it. I may not appreciate FoW or Sloan or Apples In Stereo or Sweet or Cheap Trick or The Monkees or…. in a deep personal way as say The Plastic Ono Band or James Taylor or VU or… But enjoying it is enjoying it.

    And even though I’m on the cynical U2-hata train, I get a buzz from Beautiful Day.

    I can get a buzz from a just a well placed backwards guitar lick in an otherwise banal song.

    So what’s heart and what’s head and what’s trash and what’s treasure?

    I always feel like the loser in an argument wherein someone clearly loves a band (ie The Smiths) and I can’t stand them. I can’t stand The Smiths. But every time someone stands up for them I go back and try again but I feel like I’ve been bested.

    So beauty is in the eye is pretty much the bottom line here I think.

    And if you or I find pleasure in something that someone else doesn’t then heart trumps head once again.

  74. trolleyvox

    Matt wrote They’re not guys getting up there in torn blue jeans and singing about their lives. Nah, they’d rather write about middle managers with alcohol issues (“Bright Future in Sales”) or teenagers with pretensions of machismo and hopeless crushes (“Denise”), just to cite a few examples. I don’t see why this is a problem.

    Their subject matter isn’t the problem. The problem is they are trafficking in paint-by-numbers hit making in a genre (power pop) that’s already rather paint-by-numbers. They’re cranking this stuff out like a factory cranks out cheap toys. Nothing really offensive about cheap toys or a typical candy bar, but nothing really notable, either. Sure, Bubblegum and Brill Building-era song factories did this, too, but at least then it wasn’t so pre-fab homogenized, almost like those two Nickleback songs in the left and right speaker matching one another. Whatever the subject matter, on a visceral musical level, it’s soul-less. Robbie Fulks really did nail it with his “Fountains of Wayne Hotline” spoof.

  75. sammymaudlin

    The problem is they are trafficking in paint-by-numbers hit making in a genre (power pop) that’s already rather paint-by-numbers.

    In all seriousness, so what? Why is that a problem? For FoW or anyone of a number bands?

    I can tell an FoW song from a Green Day song? So there must be something original about it.

    Does every band I enjoy have to be great innovators? Or have to wear their hearts on their sleeves?

    I got pissed awhile back about Sloan rolling out the same tricks over and over but then came to the realization that I like their tricks and that they’ve got some fun songs with good licks. Sometimes that’s all I’m lookin’ for.

  76. trolleyvox

    Like I said, nothing wrong with candy bars. People like those things, and in the right moment they can hit the spot. But IMHO, FoW aren’t much more than that.

  77. Mr. Moderator

    Right on, Tvox. You’ve captured the root of my beef without insulting a bunch of people with your explanation. Nice job.

    Sammy, in my opinion, the only thing “wrong” with what Tvox described so well may be that they’re selling themselves short and robbing listeners who like some of what they’ve done a lot of possibly getting a little more out of them.

    I’m reminded of two anecdotes that may help explain where I’m coming from:

    1. For years Philadelphia produced a local candy delight called Goldberg’s Peanut Chews: caramel and peanuts with a dark chocolate coating. Not too sticky, not too sweet, just right. A real Philly family used to make them. A Goldberg daughter used to ride the same schoolbus with me. I was a troublemaker on the schoolbus and this 10-year-old girl was one of my targets. Sadly, I was cut out of the boxes of Goldberg’s Peanut Chews that she’d hand out to her friends. Even sadder yet, a couple of years ago the family sold the company to a national candy maker. They quickly “de-ethnicized” the name and changed the dark chocolate to milk chocolate. The things now sold as simply “Peanut Chews” are not the same. Candy eaters are poorer as a result of the corporate gloss applied to a treasured, obscure, regional treat.

    2. A few years ago my Mom was over our house. I was reading the paper, minding my own business, when she blurted out, “I think that’s terrible! Why does she have to do that?” I put down the paper and asked my Mom what she was talking about. My wife looked up from whatever she was doing and also showed concern.

    “Look at the back of that paper,” my Mom said, pointing to the section I was reading. “That Catherine Zeta-Jones has to be on a full-page [phone company] ad! Why do they have to use her? I think that’s terrible!”

    We didn’t get what bugged her so. “She’s beautiful,” my wife said, “Why shouldn’t they use her?”

    “I have no interest in getting a new cell phone,” I concurred, “but when she comes on the screed in those ads I can’t turn my head away from the screen.”

    “I just think it’s wrong,” replied my Mom. “I mean, she doesn’t get enough attention and money from her movies and that rich, old, dried-up bastard Michael Douglas she’s with. There are so many struggling, beautiful actresses who could use that job. She stealing work from one of them.”

  78. Perhaps a bit off topic but given the choice, I would choose the girl with the unlimited supply of Goldberg Peanut Chews than Cathrine Zeta Jones any day of the week. CZJ is beautiful and all but those peanut chews kicked ass.

  79. Mr. Moderator

    I was 11 when I turned off young Miss Goldberg for the rest of our days riding that bus together. I was just a little too young to have been able to consider either of the choices you outline.

  80. sammymaudlin

    Can’t talk. Eating candy bar. Mmmmmmmmmmm, candy bar.

  81. I’m not a particular FoW fan but I think there is a bit of hair-splitting going on when they are criticized for being “pre-fab homogenized” but Bubblegum and Brill Building-era song factories get a pass. What about the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter or Frank Loesser or the rest of the composers of the Great American Songbook?

    “What’s playing at the Roxy?
    I’ll tell you what’s playing at the Roxy.
    A picture about a Minnesota man falls in love with a Mississippi girl
    That he sacrifices everything and moves all the way to Biloxi.
    That’s what’s playing at the Roxy.

    What’s in the daily news?
    I’ll tell you what’s in the daily news.
    Story about a man bought his wife a small ruby
    With what otherwise would have been his union dues.
    That’s what’s in the daily news.

    What’s happening all over?
    I’ll tell you what’s happening all over.
    Guy sitting home by a television set
    That used to be something of a rover.
    That’s what’s happening all over.

    Love is the thing that has nipped them.
    And it looks like Nathan’s just another victim.

    NICELY (spoken) Yes, sir!

    When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky
    You can bet that he’s doing it for some doll.
    When you spot a John waiting out in the rain
    Chances are he’s insane as only a John can be for a Jane.
    When you meet a gent paying all kinds of rent
    For a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal.
    Call it sad, call it funny.
    But it’s better than even money
    That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.
    When you see a Joe saving half of his dough
    You can bet there’ll be mink in it for some doll.
    When a bum buys wine like a bum can’t afford
    It’s a cinch that the bum is under the thumb of some little broad.
    When you meet a mug lately out of the jug
    And he’s still lifting platinum folderol
    Call it hell, call it heaven
    But it’s probable twelve to seven
    That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.


    When you see a sport and his cash has run short
    Make a bet that he’s banking it with some doll.
    When a guy wears tails with the front gleaming white
    Who the hell do you think he’s tickling pink on Saturday night?
    When a lazy slob takes a goody steady job,
    And he smells from Vitalis and Barbasol.
    Call it dumb, call it clever
    Ah, but you can get odds forever
    That the guy’s only doing it for some doll
    Some doll, some doll
    The guy’s only doing it for some doll!”

    So that’s the title song from the musical Guys & Dolls. Loved it since I was little. Seen the Sinatra film version a dozen times. Saw the version with Benson’s own Robert Guillame in the Nathan Detroit role back in the mid-‘70s. Saw a high school production. I’m going to NYC tomorrow to see the recently opened production (possibly before it closes based on early reviews but I don’t care). If my second daughter had been a boy I was insistent she be named Nathan Detroit; my wife, as usual, had her way when he was a she. By the time my son came along he was spared that fate since the family name Nathan had been used by my brother-in-law.

    Lots of other fantastic songs in this play – Luck Be A Lady, Fugue For Tinhorns, The Oldest Established. Great melodies, fantastic lyrics. And yet it was written 50 years ago but a professional songwriter for a play based on stories about NYC written decades before that by a guy born in Kansas.

    Does any of that make it heart music? Head music? Unemotional since it’s akin to work-for-hire? I don’t care, I can’t wait til tomorrow (and not ‘cos I get better-looking everyday!)

    Help me out Mr. Mod and the other sides in this thread? What makes it head or heart? The song itself? The songwriter’s motivation? The actual performance? The theme? Do the unbelievably clever lyrics of Guys & Dolls make it head music?

    FoW, bubblegum, Brill Building, Guys & Dolls…they’re all pre-fab in a way. For my money, Guys & Dolls is better than the Brill Building which is better than bubblegum which is better than FoW. But none of them were necessarily tortured artists pouring blood out on the tracks, were they?

    I won’t waste a second arguing with anyone who thinks FoW is better than Guys & Dolls. I will argue with anyone who says Guys & Doll isn’t great. And I don’t think I’d mention head or heart in the argument at all.

  82. saturnismine

    all this disingenuous devil’s advocate bullshit is getting on my tits.

    i’ve never EVER heard anyone say that they were moved by a FoW song or thought their music had alot of heart. Period.

    if you have, then raise your hand.

  83. Saturn, Yes, “Laser Show” causes me to weep like an old world Italian widow.

  84. Mr. Moderator

    A couple of songs from the first FoW album hit me harder than might be expected – even the funny ones, like “The Biker,” which is why it bugs me so much that they became so formulaic and self-satisfied.

  85. hrrundivbakshi

    For the record, I have no love for FoW. To me, they may be the most “meh” band I’m meant to like.

  86. saturnismine

    great answers from all three of you!

  87. saturnismine

    is the QB at :50 of this vid Bernie Kosar or Brian Sipe?

  88. 2000 Man

    Mwall said:

    Lately, the Stones got nothing I can use on a Sunday afternoon.

    I gotta say, I think you’re doing it wrong.

    Sat, that’s Brian Sipe.

    HVB is right. Why are we supposed to like FoW anyway? I think of them like I think of 1910 Fruitgum Company. Which is kind of like not at all.

  89. saturnismine

    Thanks, 2k! i KNEW it! you just settled a bet.

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