Today’s soundtrack for leaving the office early and reading on the deck was Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne. So what if this record is last year’s news? I’ve had it for six months, it’s still near the top of the CD stack, and I want to know why. Even though the songs run the gamut of musical styles, there’s an undeniable common thread that pulls everything together into a record, as opposed to the usual collection of tracks.
But what’s the unifying theme? A lot of critics refer to a North Jersey ennui, but there’s more. Welcome Interstate Managers embodies that depressing, post-graduation phase of life. Remember when you realized that your days now consist of working for a “mean little man?” Didn’t that make you want to “reach into the bottom drawer” for a drink? And soon after the shock of being a corporate drone wears off comes the realization that you’re a mere cog in the machine, “bought for a song” to “stump for the man.” That sense of futility is all over the record, including the cover, which depicts a legion of homogeneous men at some kind of business banquet.
Accompanying the job shock is the uneasy feeling of having one foot in adulthood and one foot back in school. You know–missing the old gang and sensing that everyone except you has moved on to SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.
The combination of job malaise and real-world loneliness have an inevitable result–the desire to run away to a simpler life, as portrayed in Peace and Love, admittedly one of the album’s sillier songs:
Sometimes I think I might just move up to Vermont
Open up a bookstore or a vegan restaurant
Recognize that idea? Hasn’t everyone gone through a bookstore fantasy phase? Welcome Interstate Managers is a catchy reminder of a familiar trajectory, and maybe that’s why it strikes a chord with so many people.