It happened on a Sunday in early 1997. Because of Bergen County’s blue laws that kept most stores closed, I had driven down to Wayne, NJ, to shop for some new music. I’d been going to Willowbrook Mall and the other area shops around Wayne for as long as I could remember. As a kid, my neighbor’s mom would take her two sons, my brother, Matt, and I—with our pockets full of quarters—to the video game arcade at the mall. Years later, while I attended nearby Montclair State College, I would often go with friends to eat, shop, hangout, or sing karaoke in a basement bar of one of the restaurants (Casey O’Tooles?).
But that Sunday in 1997, I had gone by myself to The Wiz (an electronics and music store near Willowbrook, but not in the mall) to search the rows of CDs for something new. At the end of one of those rows was a special display, a rack of CDs featuring local artists. And that’s when Fountains of Wayne’s self-titled debut album caught my eye.