July 25, 2005 12:00 PM

Out-of-State Plates

CRITIC’S CHOICE

Two years ago this critically adored, commercially ignored quartet finally secured a toehold on the sales charts thanks to “Stacy’s Mom,” the hit summer single from the near-perfect power-pop opus Welcome Interstate Managers. Now they follow up with this double CD of outtakes, early demo recordings and covers. But in the hook-crazy hands of Fountains of Wayne, this 30-track collection plays like a concept album, the overarching theme being pure pop craftsmanship. Two new songs, “Maureen” and “The Girl I Can’t Forget,” are the kind of propulsive, harmony-laden and humor-rich tunes that make fans wish the Fountains had put out more than three previous discs in their 10-year career. Other bands would be proud to record songs like the wistful “I Know You Well,” written by Fountains cofounder Chris Collingwood for his brother’s wedding. One of four tracks previously released in the U.S., “I Want an Alien for Christmas,” is as catchy as it is hilarious (“I wanna little green guy about three feet high/With 17 eyes who knows how to fly”). The group’s cover of Britney Spears smash “…Baby One More Time” is probably the most-heard cut, thanks to widely bootlegged copies. Also included are reverent remakes of ELO’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” Dionne Warwick’s “Trains and Boats and Planes” and Ricky Nelson’s tender “Today’s Teardrops.”

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Maureen”

JAZZ-POP

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