So after 'Stacy's Mom' finally disappeared from the Top 40 Hell of Z100, that was it for a while. I sort of packed the Fountains away in the back of my mind with such bands as Eve 6 or Unwritten Law, who managed to write one song that captured my imagination.
Flash forward a few years. By this time I was starting to explore the wide world of podcasting with my own, first tenative step on that road, Other People's Toys. And I was listening to a lot of other people's podcast. I had taken to visiting Podcast Alley every day to look for random podcasts to sample, some of which I added to my list of regular listens, some of which I discarded after an initial spin.
At roughly the same time, one of the music blogs I followed--I really wish I could tell you which one, but it's faded from my aging memory--posted about a new podcast it participated in called The Contrast Podcast. The idea behind this one intrigued me--one Tim Young would announce a particular theme for each episode, then invite podcasters and music bloggers to contribute a song each, accompanied with a minute-or-so introduction explaining why they chose said song. It sounded like fun, so I went to Tim's website and downloaded the four episodes extant at the time. The third episode's theme was songs that were exactly three minutes in length...and one of the songs featured was 'Hackensack.'
This song just drew my attention instantly. It's unlike a lot of what people think of when they think of The Fountains of Wayne, and it's obvious it's different from the opening, loping intro. There's a certain...sneakiness to it that insinuates itself into your brain, while also giving is an insight into what kind of story we're about to hear. This is not the story of a hero, or a romantic lead; this is the story of some poor suck who lives his life on the edges of society, some individual we wouldn't think twice about passing unacknowledged.
...and when we finally hear this person's voice, his plight is even sadder than we imagined. Given a fawning, desperate tone by vocalist Adam Schlesinger, we learn that this is the kind of man who's done nothing--and I mean nothing--with his life. His most glamorous job has been working in a record store, and now he works in the family business 'scraping the paint off hardwood floors,' existing in quiet, horrific monotony...
And then he sees a schoolmate 'in the strangest places'--on television, in magazines, and 'talknig to Christopher Walken' on television. This allows him to create a strange fantasy life where he's waiting for this classmate who made it out, for the moment where she'll come back to Hackensack and save him from his empty world with, it's implied, her love.
On one level, it's a sad little story about seeing a peer make good and inspiring hope in you. We've all had that one classmate who went on to bigger things that lets us know that we can go on to bigger things as well (unfortunately, mine was Vin Diesel...). But that little cameo-in-carpenter-pants isn't enough for Adam and crew. No, with his vocals he gives our POV character a subtle hint that his inspiration is more sinister. He might not just take solace in his classmate's movie star success, but be inspired to take up the mantle of fan/stalker, obsessing about this girl who may be a celebrity, but to him is still the girl he went to school with every morning at 8:15, preparing to return to him.
I've made it clear in the past that I love songs with a tension between melody and lyrics. This isn't quite an exact example of this...but the extra darkness Adam's voice shades it with is what made me pay even more attention to this band.
I still wasn't there to pure fanaticism...but I was getting close.
Next time, we stay with the Contrast Podcast, my strange relationship with a girl who looked like an Ed Benes drawing of Black Canary, and the FoW song that bore her name....