FFWDing to the Best Part: “My Hometown,” Bowling for Soup (2004)

How many songs can make you both laugh and cry (or at least snicker and sigh)?  Over the course of three short minutes? And if such songs exist, how many are performed by chubby, 30-something pop-punkers from North Texas?  I may have found the one example of this phenomenon in the entire pop catalog.

“My Hometown” in an unassuming, mid-album track from the band’s seventh album, A Hangover You Don’t Deserve, which is their most successful album to date (thank you, novelty hit “1985”). Bowling for Soup frontman and chief songwriter Jaret Reddick has made no secret of his lack of affection for the town in which he was raised, though he does remain loyal to the Lone Star state, or so the lyrics of “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)” (and his prominent placement of the Texas flag in various places) would suggest.

But the opening lyrics of “My Hometown” allude to a rather unhappy childhood as a “fat kid and a marching-band geek,” who had few friends and fewer chances at escape. The lyrics are irreverent yet poignant, and the closing verse—a extended-stanza tribute to his big brother—ends with the disappointing realization that while Reddick escaped the town that stifled him, his childhood role model has failed to do the same. Following this denouement is an abrupt and distorted end to the song, at which point the narrator’s cresting frustration collides with the listeners’ ears.

The song’s conclusion is is powerful and memorable, but it’s not the best part, which actually comes shortly after the tempo accelerates into the song’s second verse. Here’s where Reddick credits those that set Bowling for Soup on the path for success: a professor, generous friends who happened to work at music stores, and—right at 1:05-1:09—”and to all the clubs that let us play…” The lead vocal modulates higher, gets louder, and there’s a real sense of passion and gratitude in Reddick’s tone. It makes sense that this coincides with the favor that probably helped the band along more than anything else.

(No video for this one, but the song is worth a listen anyhow. Note: explicit lyrics, so make sure you aren’t listening alongside wee ones.)

FFWding to the Best Part: “Stacy’s Mom,” Fountains of Wayne (2003)

“Stacy’s Mom” is one of a handful of examples where a perfectly lovely band with a respectable and prolific body of solid work scores their biggest hit with something that ranks pretty high on the novelty scale (see also: Devo, Dead Milkmen).  This is a fun song and I can dance to it, but it’s no “It Must Be Summer” or even “Hey Julie.”

But it does inspire a fun anecdote. Last spring, I saw Fountains of Wayne live on Friday, then Bowling for Soup the following Monday. The audience at the former show consisted of aging hipsters.  Like … way aging.  Like … might have seen The Beatles at Shea. Rather surprisingly, the Bowling for Soup crowd was approximately 87% sub-22 skater punk, WARP tour kids. My friend Beth and I may very well have been the only two people to attend both shows.

At one point late in the show, BfS front man Jaret Reddick declares:

“For about eight years, people have been giving us credit for the song ‘Stacy’s Mom’…”

What.

“… but that’s not us! It’s a band of cool guys called Fountains of Wayne. But f*ck it. If we’re getting credit for it, we’re singing it.”

They then launch into a fun punk-pop cover of “Stacy’s Mom.” Awesome, all around.

Best part? 2:43 – 3:00. Right after the instrumental bridge/break, we segue into the chorus with a twist. Guitars and drums take a back seat to clapping and additional tight harmonies, which soon resolves into the song’s denouement. Bonus: this “best part” corresponds with the Fast Times at Ridgemont High allusion in the video.