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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

First, the rationalization.

Though gaining exposure during the 1990s "alternative" craze, the Counting Crows are about as alternative as the Wichita Adult Mixed Ensemble.

"Shrek" connections and lead singer Adam Duritz' persistence in sporting thinning, white-boy dreadlocks certainly don't help the band's street credibility either. The Crows play it Mr. Rogers safe.

But there's always a place for timeless pop songs, and that's what Duritz and company produce - most of the time.

With "Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings," the Berkeley band reveals their affection for a good party. They should have spent the weekends writing hooks, because the album doesn't have many.

Compounding the monotony, a dogged determination to "rock" means that apart from the sappy folk ballads, songs are noisy, angry and messy. On these counts, at least, they succeed - see exhibit A: opener "1492."

It would help to tune down the guitar pyrotechnics and tune up the actual guitars, because they sound like garbage. David Bryson just isn't a talented enough guitarist to pull off the distorted soloing in the loud songs.

The biggest failures, though, belong to Duritz. He's far from convincing in his role as debauched tragic hero. Taking in his ruminations on excess is akin to listening to Elmo reflect on his time in the mob. No, thanks.

"Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings" thus drops the Crows precipitously on the avian scale. Once firmly perched between the Jayhawks and Byrds, the collective now hang a mere rung above the Eagles and Partridge Family in terms of aural stimulation. If there's a saving grace, it's the suburban "Hanging Tree." The irresistible slab of power pop taps into the lush melodicism of "Hard Candy."

But to those looking to keep a standing in the alternative community, a word of advice: Peel that Black Flag sticker off your back bumper before cranking this one out the car stereo.

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