Fountains of Wayne were never held in the same regard as other power pop players like Teenage Fanclub or Weezer. Maybe it’s because their biggest moment, ‘Stacy’s Mom’, was a bubblegum MTV hit about a schoolboy crush which McFly would’ve killed for.
But beneath the candyfloss, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger are talented songwriters – their 20-year-old eponymous debut still containing more earworms than most guitar groups manage in a career. Their throwaway name (after a garden furniture shop) belied the fact that they could tackle grown-up themes; for every ‘Survival Car’ there’s a sensitive ‘She’s Got A Problem’, for every ‘Stacy’s Mom’ a wistful ‘Valley Winter Song’.
A new FoW record isn’t on the horizon, so Collingwood’s chosen to make his first ‘solo album’. Except he doesn’t like the half-baked connotations that implies, instead adopting the name of his hometown Massachusetts park.
In fairness, with Crowded House and Elvis Costello-producer Mitchell Froom at the helm, this is no make-shift flight of fancy. It’s a fully polished ‘band’ LP, light on fuzz guitar but embellished with strings, piano and other timeless pop elements.
True, the hooks are sometimes slower to reveal themselves than we’re accustomed to, but songs like ‘Aeroplane’, with its soaring chorus, and propelling instrumentation, don’t take long to settle in the subconscious. There’s also an emotional directness to Look Park, with a shift away from FoW’s trademark character-based vignettes. This makes ‘You Can Come Round If You Want To’, a warm offer of charity, one of the album’s strongest, and catchiest, tracks.
While not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, in some ways similar to the solo output of, say, Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame, Look Park confirms Collingwood’s chops as a seasoned songsmith.
Words: Pete Bate