Songs from Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne, Ranked

Welcome Interstate Managers is a perfect and great album. Every song is necessary and loved. Some of the songs are serious, some are lighthearted, but even the trifles are brilliant.

That said: this album has 17 tracks (including the bonus). Some of these great songs are greater than the other great songs. I’m here to help you figure out which songs are indispensable and which ones are merely excellent.

I should caveat this discussion with the obvious: All of Fountains of Wayne’s albums are deep and rich and full of gems. You may have a fondness for one or two specific songs that I don’t, and vice versa. Neither of us are wrong; this album is just that good.

17. “Peace and Love”

A fun rollick, gently skewering hippies with a straightforward tune. But it ultimately doesn’t leave much of an impression — none of the lines or musical flourishes are as clever as this album’s peaks.

16. “Yours and Mine”

The abbreviated acoustic closer is a hallowed rock album tradition, and this is a great one. The portrait of a predictable suburban couple winding down is vintage Fountains warm satire, equal parts affection and eye-roll. It’s a minute long, but makes the most of those 62 seconds: two lovely verses and a melodica solo.

15. “Supercollider”

If “Yours and Mine” is too short, “Supercollider” is too long. The power ballad showcases some Liam Gallagher-esque vocals by Chris Collingwood and skillful guitar. It’s far from a stinker, but would have been just as effective at 3 minutes instead of 5.

14. “Elevator Up”

The driving bonus track fondly depicts a night of debauchery, with not-so-winking nods to various recreational narcotics. The guitar work is cool, if not as catchy as some Fountains tracks. Bonus points for ending the song (and album) with “any way the wind blows.”

13. “Halley’s Waitress”

The gag is dumb, but the song is absolutely gorgeous. Poor restaurant service inspires a wistful plea. Luscious horns and vocal harmonies elevate the throwaway to beauty.

12. “Little Red Light”

When Fountains focuses on minor details, the writing always shines. Here it’s the voicemail light on a “big black Radio Shack digital portable phone” as the protagonist waits for his ex to call him back. A muscular power pop composition complements the heartbreak wonderfully.

11. “No Better Place”

A delightful pop confection about struggling to say goodbye. The melody is a bit less tuneful, a bit more reflective and abstract than some of Fountains other work, which immediately makes me think this is a Collingwood joint, not Schlesinger.

10. “Bought for a Song”

Rarely does Fountains of Wayne come across as jaded, yet here we are (oddly, before their one big hit). The band’s power pop chops are unleashed with shimmering guitars and peppy beats.

9. “Fire Island”

The parents are out of town, so the teenager throws a big party. What if this wasn’t a cheesy high school cliche, but an earnest moment of contemplation? You’d get “Fire Island” — a spiritual sibling to “Prom Theme” from Utopia Parkway, nearly as exquisite as the latter but not quite as evocative. (A prom, unlike a party, is already symbolic as a farewell to childhood.)

8. “Hung Up on You”

Fountains go alt country to fantastic effect. This deep cut plays around with the idiom “hung up” as both unrequited love and cut off phone call, with some of the album’s best lines: When the narrator is at a bar to use its payphone to call his baby, he has “an appetite for poison and a suitcase full of dimes.”

7. “Valley Winter Song”

There’s a depressing numbness to snowfall, the kind that can wear down a romantic heart. “Valley Winter Song” hits paritcularly strong because there’s almost no jokiness in sight — just longing for sunbeams in one of the loveliest tunes on the album.

6. “Bright Future in Sales”

One of the slickest tracks (also funniest) on the album; this could have been a single. The lyrics make clear the alcoholic protagonist doesn’t have a bright future in anything unless he “gets his shit together.”

5. “Hey Julie”

One of the most straightforward love songs on Managers, yet still fueled by satire: “Hey Julie” is as much about a soul-crushing white-collar 9-to-5 as it is the wholesome love waiting at home. The melody is bright and chipper, buoyed by some warm acoustic guitar and harmonica.

4. “Mexican Wine”

A goofball power pop epic, “Mexican Wine” is maybe the catchiest song on the album. Chronicling two losers who deserve each other (in a sweet way), the song glides on crunchy chords and a layered, harmony-filled production. The lyrics are jokey but charming, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger opener for this album.

3. “Stacy’s Mom”

When Adam Schlesinger wrote “Stacy’s Mom,” his songwriting partner Chris Collingwood didn’t want to record it. He didn’t want to release it as a single. He knew it was too good and would define the band’s legacy. He was right. The song towers above everything else around it. “Stacy’s Mom” has a historically euphoric chorus, elevated to the stratosphere with power pop alchemy equal parts technical precision and sophomoric giddiness. Yes, it’s a MILF anthem, but it’s also an all-time banger.

2. “Hackensack”

It would be easy to take the subject of “Hackensack” and turn him into a pathetic punching bag: A paint-scraping schmuck who can’t escape his dead-end Jersey hometown, but pines for the movie star he went to high school with. Yet, Schlesinger went the other way. He made his protagonist a longing, romantic hero — hopeless and deluded, for sure — but pure of spirit. The song’s melody is heart-rending and perfect, hummable yet spiritual like a church hymn for the loser who still believes in love. If it’s not Adam Schlesinger’s best song ever, it’s pretty damn close.

1.”All Kinds of Time”

A moment in amber: The college quarterback dodges defenders and scans the field for his receivers. The air is pregnant with possibility and tension; of hope and culmination.

Adam Schlesinger takes this moment, and the phrase that announcers often use to describe a quarterback in the backfield (“he’s got all kinds of time!”), into something infinitely poetic. The repeated cadence of “all kinds of time” builds in power as it recurs and its implicit scope expands. “Time” becomes a marker of youth, but of inevitable mortality, of a reality bound by a universal currency.

There’s a triumph in the song’s climax, a hint of a great score on the horizon. Yet even that drowns in a cadence of “all kinds of time” — a moment gone as quickly as it appeared, powered by a “Champagne Supernova”-style guitar swirl.

The song was and always will be a masterpiece. But it feels especially powerful in the wake of Schlesinger’s abrupt COVID death: Time was more fleeting for Adam than he (or we) realized. And while he certainly made the most of his years, his “all kinds of time” vanished too quickly, snuffed out like a candle. A year later, it still fucking sucks to think about, the irreplaceable void of genius he left behind.

“All Kinds of Time” makes me think about Adam’s days and weeks and years that could have been; it also makes me grateful for the fantastic music he created in the time he was here.

Dan and Brian from Earn This now have a film review site and podcast:

The Goods: Film Reviews

The Goods: A Film Podcast

Available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *