Darby Shaw drags a band out into the spotlight that many of us thought had gone away.
Remember Counting Crows? Lead singer was a white dude with dreadlocks? Had that song, “Mr. Jones.” It was all over MTV, back when MTV played videos? You kinda liked them because the lyrics were obscure, but not Pearl Jam obscure. The lyrics were depressing, but not Nirvana depressing. They were, like… Grunge Lite. You probably owned their first album, “August and Everything After.” You might have picked up one of the next three albums, “Recovering the Satellites,” “This Desert Life,” or “Hard Candy.” But considering they were releasing albums at the blistering rate of one every three years, you probably lost interest at some point. After all, there are plenty of bands out there with obscurely-written and depressing lyrics that you didn’t have to wait almost an entire election cycle to hear their next release.
Well, they’re back. After a six-year dry spell (with an obligatory release of a greatest hits album and a live album substituting for any real production), they’ve returned with Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings .” Apparently, the album started off as just a portion that was “Saturday Nights,” but as they kept recording, they were discovering a new sound to the second portion of the album. (Incidentally, how does a band “discover” a new sound emerging mid-album? You’re writing it! Romantic bullshit aside, YOU control how the album sounds. Not the other way around.) The second portion became the “Sunday Mornings” section.
When you listen to it, other titles come to mind. The first is “Bipolar,” in honor of their historically depressing songs. The first part would be a manic phase: upbeat, rocking, and willing to engage in spending sprees to buy your affection. The second part would be the depressive phase: melancholy, slow, and moaning about how women have destroyed all that is good in the universe. Or perhaps more accurately, the title would be “The Album We Started Making, and the Album We Realized Our Fans Were Expecting.” Because, let’s be honest. Anyone who expected traditional Counting Crows wouldn’t even recognize the first six tracks on the album… but the last eight feel comfortable, like that old flannel shirt you’ve still got hanging in the back of your closet that smells vaguely like the remnants of that music festival you attended in the mid-90s: beer, mud, pot smoke, and unwashed bodies.
But really, “Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings” works as a title. The beginning of the album would be appropriate for any weekend night at the bar, doing shots of Jagermeister and shouting lame pickup lines into some girl’s ear. But the later, longer portion of the album is much more morning-after, hung-over, where-are-my-pants-and-who-is-that-person-on-my-bed sort of music.
Song you should pay $1 for on iTunes, rather than downloading for free: “When I Dream of Michaelangelo.” It’s standard Counting Crows fare: depressing stuff involving a girl. There are metaphors all over the place. And hell, Adam Duritz even steals the title from a previous Counting Crows song, “Angels of the Silences.” You can’t get much more tried-and-true than that.
Rating: Four out of five Coyote Ugly bartenders. (Critic’s note: after hours and hours of staring at the photo, I decided that the boss had to be the one to be excluded. The cute dreamer girl, the supermodel, the angry lesbian, and the slutty blonde had to stay.)