You are presented with a book, titled How To Be Happy. In it, you find countless diagrams and painstaking depictions of the history of happiness, its many forms, its advantages, its alchemy, its boundaries and potency. The phrasing is eloquent, the characterization inspiring. It makes you feel like you have the secret weapon to a fulfilling life, the current one feeling all the more dismal as you read fluttery page after page. After studying the book for quite some time, you put to practice all the learned happiness that was so meticulously described… and promptly fail at every turn. While what you had read was perfection on paper, it was a one-size-fits-all template for generic happiness. It fails, because learned, objective happiness is just as unfeasible as its sadness counterpart, which I’m sure one book purports to achieve just a few rows down the library shelf.
Fountains of Wayne’s fifth album sounds like the product of a group making music to every detail of How to Make Power Pop. The album is as successful at making affecting music as someone would be good at science if they could say the word in sixteen different languages. After fifteen years of doing this stuff, FOW know exactly how to make a record technically their own. But listening to Sky Full of Holes makes you feel like all time has done is eroded the group’s character until all that’s left are hollow concepts. There’s nothing on the album that wouldn’t be found on the group’s other records; buoyant hooks and dated pop culture references. The only difference is the references are even less memorable (only the Will Ferrell line in “A Road Song” really sticks) and not a single musical idea the group throws at you doesn’t feel tired the moment it lurches through your speakers. If sterile pop is all you expect from Fountains of Wayne, then Sky Full of Holes will be the spackle for your musical drywall. But if you’re looking for anything, and I mean anything, different from this group, then I cannot innumerate how many shits with which you will be out of luck.