Fountains of Wayne seems like a weird choice for an all-acoustic set at Anthology. The band’s songwriters, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, are best known for writing irresistible, catchy power pop with jokey, name-checking lyrics like “It’s Thursday night, she should be out on the scene/ But she’s sitting at home watching The King of Queens.” This is not the kind of earnest, confessional songwriting that we associate with acoustic concerts.
In fact, Collingwood and Schlesinger often seem to be writing brilliant parodies of pop songs as much as they’re writing pop songs. Schlesinger, in particular, has had a side career doing exactly such parody work since his theme song for the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! garnered an Oscar nomination. Check out his songs for the silly Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy Music and Lyrics: they’re crap, but the hooks are so good that you hardly notice.
Still, just because Fountains of Wayne songs are funny doesn’t mean they’re not heartfelt. Like Ray Davies of the Kinks, Collingwood and Schlesinger tend to write in the third person, with lots of specific details of place and time. Like Davies, they pack their songs with humor, but in their best songs they are serious about establishing believable characters and documenting modern life. “Someone to Love,” the song that references The King of Queens, is only a joke at first listen. After several verses telling us about the characters Seth Shapiro and Beth McKenzie and their lonely lives, the two finally meet…and Beth steals Seth’s taxi. There’s no happy ending. It’s a portrait of urban isolation as bleak as “Eleanor Rigby.”
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, Anthology, Saturday, January 24, 7:30 p.m. 619-595-0300. $22.