One listen to this album shows you, once again, how damned efficient they are at...
Chris Jones 2008
Counting Crows' fifth studio album in 13 years will cause a big sigh of relief from fans around the world. Five years on from their last studio album, Hard Candy, and two from a live album of the tour that supported it, the band's delayed album of hellish and heavenly pleasures is finally released. Saturday Nights... was put back by the wise re-release of the deluxe edition of their classic - August And Everything After. This savvy move has reminded us why the band were so huge in the first place. But one listen to this album shows you, once again, how damned efficient they are at summoning up the spirit of an age that cared more about music than image.
The album is constructed in two halves. The first (Saturday Nights) being filled with the rocking, loud and debauched 'sinning' songs; the second (Sunday Morning) being the quiet acoustic atonement and redemption. It's an interesting idea that almost holds together.
The album rips right into 1492, with its tales of seedy Italian nightclubs. The band used to be compared to the freewheeling poetic rock soul of Van Morrison, but these days the touchstones seem to be early '70s Stones and late Beatles with even a hint of the latino-inflected soundscapes of the West Coast (especially Sundays). Cowboys, with its strident keyboards even has a hint of Springsteen. Adam Duritz's warbling voice makes you believe that he's drowning in a pit of self doubt and the band sound genuinely enlivened, with all three (yes, three) guitarists pulling out all the stops.
The second half is less consistent. While Washington Square and Anyone But You are filled, again, with those beautiful hints of lazy Californian vistas, too often the band rely on a standard chorus-repetition-until-it-seems-to-be-meaningful-approach. Duritz emotes angst and worry, but too often the predictable arrangements stymie the sense of resolution that this suite of songs is meant to imply.
In the end it's a concept that has obviously fired the band's creative spark again. We may not all relate to the self-destructive urge that pushes Duritz's muse to the edge, but as a straight-ahead rock album it's still got a lot to offer. To a UK audience, for whom even the mainstream includes the Arctic Monkeys and their ilk, this may seem a little too steeped in a '70s FM vibe, but on their own terms it's mostly a firm return to form.