Album Reviews

Counting Crows – Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings

(Geffen) UK release date: 24 March 2008

If your idea of a good Saturday night and Sunday morning is spending your time listening to Counting Crows, you need to get out more. Their penchant for MOR, American radio tunes makes them popular in their own country, but Britain has never really embraced their pseudo emotional ramblings, mainly because we have a hundred bands who do the same thing a hell of a lot better.

The concept here is exactly what it says on the tin. Or the sleeve. Half of the album (produced by Gil Norton) is intended for Saturday night, so it’s supposed to be aggressive, upbeat and lively. Just like the best night of the week. The other half (produced by Brian Deck) is the wall-eyed hangover of a Counting Crows Sunday morning, all acoustic guitars, quiet introspection and musing.

The band suggest that you listen to the whole thing in one go, presumably so you can get excited but calm yourself down enough after so you don’t do something crazy like buying their entire back catalogue. This does miss the point though, and it makes Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings somewhat disjointed. Exactly what you would expect from two differently produced collections of songs.

For example, Cowboys, the last track of Saturday night may have ridiculous lyrics about how inadequate million selling artist front man Adam Duritz is but it has a healthy tempo, plenty of angst and careering guitars and pianos, with more than a few moments where a Counting Crows fan could get hand clapping or whooping during a gig. What follows this is Washington Square, a gentle meander through American geography which is pleasant enough, but comes over as tepid and verges on the dull.

Which is a shame, because as far as a Counting Crows weekend goes, you would rather be round for a Sunday morning comedown than the party the night before. Duritz has always specialised in lyrics which don’t hold back, through the gamut of human emotion and back again. When he and his band keep it simple, they come up with perfectly agreeable ballads about girls who don’t love them and how crap life is and we can all go there from time to time.

Le Ballet Dor is just Duritz and a piano, rambling or pondering depending on whether you are a fan, but it’s poignant enough to make an impression. Likewise, Come Around, the last track of the album finds Duritz suitably miffed about things, he’s sick of cocaine because he “feels like it’s running in my veins”, which is, you know, a bit of a pain.

It’s not great. In fact it’s really quite dull, but still better than Saturday Night. Insignificant sounds like R.E.M. at their very worst. In fact, it’s unfair to Michael Stipe to pin him down for penning a lyric as bad as “You should wash your face and hands in the stream of my anger/it’s as bright as white paper”, while Hanging Tree is something like The Dave Matthews Band without their invention.

Considered as a whole, or even as two self-serving parts, Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings is so generic and unenlightening that you will probably not remember hearing it within an hour or so. Some of Counting Crows’ early releases managed to tap into real human emotion and captured the ears of many introspective fans around the world. Now they seem to be something of a wet weekend.

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