Sunday, February 24, 2008

You Can't Count On Me

For a time in the early 90s, the Counting Crows re-wrote pop music with the release of August and Everything After. Its success seems inevitable looking back at the band’s strong musician-ship (and production by none other than T-Bone Burnett), but remained unexpected due to the legions of fans who found solace in Adam Duritz’s super-personal lyrics. For those who fell for early songs like ‘Sullivan Street’, ‘Perfect Blue Buildings’ and ‘Raining in Baltimore’, The Counting Crows became an aural drug that choreographed personal turmoil into glorious self-righteousness, made flaws and insecurities something to celebrate, and turned pain into something beautiful. It was a badge pinned tightly to Adam’s heart, and over the course of a decade and four albums, we grew through the wrestling of relationships and mortality with his volatile swings; the intense search for identity in Recovering the Satellites, the road-weary poet of This Desert Life, the wiser, self-effacing crooner in Hard Candy.

Counting Crows may be considered Pop Music (and understandably so -- note the embrace from Adult Contemporary Radio in recent years that climaxed with their Academy Award nomination for ‘Accidentally In Love’), but it’s a strand of pop that they gave birth to; a bittersweet sound that radio has repeatedly failed to comprehend. For every red-herring (‘Hangin Around’, ‘American Girls’ and, of course, ‘Mr. Jones’) that served the band well, there’s an inside-joke for the band and their fanbase who understand the heart of their music. It’s in the singles that most people never had a chance to hear; ‘Daylight Fading’, the uncompromising seven minute poetry of ‘Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby’ and a cult-like obsession with ‘Colorblind’. It’s in their albums, each with a distinct focus of sound, orchestrated from a seven-piece group of meticulous musicians. Finally, it’s in their live shows, which are consistently sold-out despite the half-decade since their last studio album.

Last week, ‘You Can’t Count On Me’, the first single for the Counting Crows’ fifth album (Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, due March 25, 2008), was unleashed to record stores, I-Tunes, and the internet at large. I urge anyone with three spare minutes to give it a listen and witness an American band who are creating a legacy that, I fear, will only be appreciated once it’s over.

Listen to New Counting Crows here.

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