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Robbie Fulks - "Fountains Of Wayne Hotline"

Another from the curiosity department:

I came across this single on iTunes and was immediately intrigued. For one thing, Robbie Fulks appeared on my radar this year with Georgia Hard, a better than decent country throwback album. Also, who what Fountains Of Wayne fan could pass up that title?

Turns out it's basically a metasong, a song about writing a song. That's not especially rare, especially if you're a Weird Al Fan ("This Song Is Just Six Words Long" anyone?). What's so curious is that one can't tell if Fulks is paying tribute to FOW, or deriding them for being formulaic.

The song is broken into three parts. The first is a quiet verse wherein Fulks tells us he's tired of having zero success as a country music writer/performer and needs a new sound. So he calls the Fountains Of Wayne Hotline, a musical advice service. He speaks to Gerald, who tells him to spice up the second verse with a "radical dynamic shift" and a "full band entry."

At this point it basically becomes Fountains Of Wayne song, and Fulks doesn't pull any punches, saying he'll now be "beating these three chords into early middle age." Again, is he making fun of the guys from FOW? From my perspective, they've had relatively little success and don't deserve to be a target, especially with so many truly crappy bands out there making it big (sorry Nickelback fans).

After an announced "slightly distorted melodic guitar solo" Fulks calls the hotline again and this time gets Grant, a Jack Nicholson soundalike who works in the Department Of Bridges And Infrastructure. Fulks gets technical on us, describing the chords and textual variations he's used in the song so far. Grant suggests that he keep the same chords, and "slather the whole hell out of the thing with a semi-ironic Beach Boys vocal pad."

That's just what Fulks does. And it's pretty thrilling. If he really is making the point that this is just a formula and anyone could do it, then why does he make it sound so good?!

On the Yep Roc website, Fulks claims that the single was done out of admiration, and the Fountains Of Wayne website is even promoting the song! But I think there's something else bubbling underneath. We may never know the true story.

Album: Single Only
Fave Moment: The harmonies on the line: "turn my muddy waters into sweet Mexican wine."


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Carmamma said…
Funny about this song- I saw the press release which included a quote from FOW- their reaction to this song was sort of smug. I thought they would be more flattered that Fulks nailed their sound so well, but instead, they sounded like a bunch of ingrates...
Still love FOW though...
Anonymous said…
guitar music read.

Learning guitar music read is no trickier than reading 12 phone numbers.
Robert Cass said…
I'd guess that Fulks is a fan of FOW but gets frustrated when they rely on their formula instead of branching out, which is how I feel about Ben Folds quite often.
Anonymous said…
My local college radio station used to play this song. I actually thought it was by Fountains of Wayne.

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