First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2002, Volume 9, #8
Written by John Metzger
For whatever reason, Counting Crows is a band that critics love to hate. The group has been slammed for its frequent borrowing from rock ínĎ rollís past, and principal songwriter Adam Duritz has been denounced and disparaged for penning personal songs about heartache, loss, and regret. Whatís funny about this is that these same notions describe every songwriter and musician that has ever picked up an instrument.
The truth is that over the course of four studio albums, which include the bandís latest outing Hard Candy, as well as a live recording, Counting Crows has amassed an astounding body of work. In fact, itís one of the most endearing and enduring collections of music to be released in the past decade. Not only has the band continued to mine universal themes with an eye towards the poetic, but it also has managed to tinker with its sound, thereby growing and maturing with each release in a way that keeps things interesting. Each album has seen the group venture into new territory, challenging its fans to follow along. And typically, its fans do, for underneath the bandís fresh facade lies the familiar group theyíve come to know and love.
Hard Candy, however, might prove to be the biggest test of the faith of Counting Crowsí base of fans. On first glance, the album appears to pluck Duritz and company from its roots-rock origins and plunge them neck-deep in a plethora of pop melodies. Not that the group hasnít crafted its share of irresistible hooks in the past; itís just that on Hard Candy, the musicís glossy sheen shimmers and shines, casting rays of sunlight upon Duritzís grey, clouded world. Sure, the lyrics still revolve around unattainable or unmanageable love, but Duritz seems to have lightened up a bit as the passage of time now allows him to look back on his life through the sweetly-tinged lens of his own memory. As a result, he sings with more hope, eluding to the coming daylight rather than its inevitable departure.
At its heart, however, Hard Candy is still a Counting Crows album. As such, itís unlikely to convert those who canít see the beauty that lies within the bandís songs. For long-time fans patient enough to grasp the new directions that Counting Crows has explored ó and there are many ó well, they once again will be rewarded. Burt Bacharach arrangements collide with Byrds-driven guitars, all of which overlay pastoral flourishes of banjo and mandolin to create a masterful set of material that quickly becomes familiar but never grows tiresome. From the soaring anthem If I Could Give All My Love to the driving American Girls, from the sweeping, string-laden waltz of Butterfly in Reverse (co-penned by Ryan Adams) to the Marshall Tucker Band-tinged Up All Night, Counting Crows has reinvented itself for the umpteenth time. How many incarnations of itself can this band create? The combinations are inevitably as infinite as rock ínĎ roll itself. In my book, thatís a good thing. Ĺ
Hard Candy is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box