Song 36: Fountains of Wayne, “Barbara H.” (1996)


I’m gonna get real on you for a second: Every day, I have to resist temptation to write a blog post about the nineties. Every day.

I didn’t expect this to happen. I love music from a wide variety of eras, and I didn’t think I was especially nostalgic about the years for which I was between 10 and 20 years old. And yet when I sit down to write this thing, I look at my iTunes library and almost write about some band that had one hit when Friends was the big TV show and everybody was talking about O.J. I then worry that I’m turning into the yuppies from The Big Chill, like someday soon I’ll be drying dishes while dancing to a Spacehog song. But what the hell. Those were, I guess, my “formative years,” and if a person with gray hair can’t bitch about the way things used to be, what’s the world coming to?

So, Fountains of Wayne. Their debut album was, and is, one of my favorite things. The songs are just so well-written, and they’re performed to a backdrop of… not grunge, exactly, but the grunge that was left over after Nirvana and the shitty post-Nirvana bands left the building. It was a brief period, but for a little while there, bands like Fountains of Wayne and the early incarnation of Nada Surf were everywhere. I was totally into it.

“Barbara H.” wasn’t my favorite song from that record at the time (that would be “Leave The Biker,” the radio hit that never was), but it’s the one that always comes to mind. The chorus, all self-reference and high notes, is a thing of beauty. And yes, I do miss songs like this. It’s never true that they don’t make ‘em like they used to—they do, it just sounds different—but I miss the fuzz. Bring back the fuzz, please.


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