Review Summary: A nice return to form for these Californian alt-rockers.
When was the last time a Counting Crows album was big news? Probably around the same time a Collective Soul album went platinum. Maybe it was when The Cranberries still made music. Or perhaps around the period in which Weezer was still relevant. Yeah, that was quite awhile ago. Listening to Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
, the band's first album in six years, it seems as though Counting Crows is unwilling to let go of the alternative rock that was such a staple in the 90s. But unlike some artists who've grown stale whilst living and dying on a certain sound, Counting Crows manages to maintain a certain freshness in their sound that elevates Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
above some of its contemporaries.
Interestingly, despite being a rather fun album to listen to, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
is based around a rather clichéd concept. Counting Crows' fifth album is split into two halves; the first, Saturday Nights, focused on the heavier rock songs, and the second, Sunday Mornings, emphasizing acoustic songs. Both halves also run through a loose concept, with Saturday Nights referring to immorality and sin of and Sunday Mornings to regret and redemption. Quite frankly, this heavy/soft double album novelty has been done to death and Counting Crows doesn't do anything to differentiate Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
from the other records of its ilk. But it does make an entertaining listen.
Saturday Nights opens with "1492", a fast paced rocker which immediately sets the tone for the first disc. Driven largely by Adam Duritz's expressive voice and the overdriven guitars of David Bryson, Dan Vickrey, and David Immergluck, the heavy guitar rock of "1492" and "Hanging Tree" forces its way through the majority of Saturday Nights. Both "Los Angeles" and "Sunday" soften up the album slightly (particularly the later which relies on jangling guitars rather than power chords), but retain the catchy, radio-orientated pop sound stressed by their predecessors. The remaining two tracks, specifically Insignificant, don't quite match the intensity of "1492", instead resembling a sound closer to an Everclear rocker.
As I mentioned earlier, Sunday Mornings features Counting Crows exploring acoustic rock. However, unlike Saturday Nights' "Los Angeles", the second half of the album drops the poppy, radio-rock indulgence. Instead, the band has opted for a more reflective listen. Duritz's crooning, contemplative vocals enjoy an even greater role over the multi-instrumental layers which provide an emotional, introspective backdrop. "Washington Square" and "Anyone But You" each showcase this formula exceedingly well, and are excellent testaments to Counting Crows' song writing ability. However, a Matthew Good Adam Duritz is not, and though Sunday Mornings' music slightly bears resemblance to the former's writing style (though at times with a slight country tinge), Duritz is not quite as good at writing laidback pieces. Le Ballet Dor aside, none of Sunday Morning's songs are poor individually. As a unit, though, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
' second disc tends to feel a bit disjointed, and isn't nearly as enjoyable as its forerunner.
For a band that hasn't released anything in six years (and anything notable in even longer), Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
is a pleasant surprise. Clocking in at an hour, the album brings together many of the elements that made Counting Crows famous in the first place, and does it without sounding tired and derivative. Though the concept is somewhat iffy and the second half of the album sometimes drags, Counting Crows have, in essence, captured the feel of a successful comeback album. Now if only they could release material with more regularity.