Four years after releasing a sophomore album that failed to live up to the commercial promise of their debut, Fountains of Wayne jump back into the game with a solid, playful effort that seems to cast commercial consideration aside. "Mexican Wine," which kicks off the album with guitars that go pop, plenty of hooks to hang them on, and wry, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, is proof that guitarist Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger (who doubles in the band Ivy) haven’t lost the personal chemistry that’s kept them working together on and off since they were college students. The first single, "Stacy’s Mom," finds Collingwood crooning to a girl he’d like to visit after school. The reason: he wants to swim in her pool and hook up with her mom. Collingwood delivers these sentiments with such sweet glee that you accept the song as the takeoff on The Graduate that it is.
The character study "Halley’s Waitress," a harmony-drenched piano ballad with scratchy guitar interludes, finds the band sounding like Ben Folds’s musical cousins and faring quite well in that role. There are a few lesser numbers here — "Hung Up on You" is a generic country tune, and the hooks on "Peace and Love" and "Hey Julie" aren’t up to Wayne’s usual high standard. But after a four-year layoff, Collingwood and Schlesinger had a lot of tunes stored up — 16 in all — and even the weaker ones have their moments.