Adam Schlesinger's list of accomplishments in the latter half of the '90s is pretty remarkable: He's made fine records as the drummer for the French-accented pop band Ivy. He was nominated for an Academy Award for writing "That Thing You Do!," the infectious theme song from the film of the same name. And Fountains Of Wayne, the band he leads with Chris Collingwood, crafted one of the best pop songs in recent memory with "Radiation Vibe," a summer-evoking 1996 single that should have been ubiquitous. In fact, sales are just about the only thing missing from Schlesinger's resume, and if there's any justice, Fountains Of Wayne's new Utopia Parkway will change that in a hurry. For a three-minute encapsulation of the album's excellence, try "Red Dragon Tattoo," which in any other hands would be a disaster: Straddling the cobweb-thin strand separating pop bliss and cutesy over-cleverness—"Laser Show" crosses it, but it doesn't matter—it's a perfect pop song despite (and ultimately because of) its goofy synths, dopey hand-claps, a reference to "that guy from Korn," and the words, "Will you be my honey?" "Troubled Times" is slower and more subdued, but it's no less amazing, piling on layers of lustrous hooks. "Go, Hippie" is a little too Oasis-esque for its own good, but it's still catchy and conducive to repeat listens, while "Prom Theme" would work wonderfully as just that. Some great pop albums take a few exposures to fully sink in—Jason Falker's Can You Still Feel? is a recent example—but Utopia Parkway is a masterpiece from the moment you first hear it. If you put it in your CD player now, you won't want to remove it until fall.
More from The A.V. Club