Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz has always written dysfunctional tales drawn from his experiences as a serial ladies man. Convinced they can "fix" any broken psychological flaws, former paramours have instead ended up being remembered in song. The latest turn is a concept album split between a raucous clutch of songs fueled by bacchanalia and the acoustic, next-morning aftermath of contrition.
Reuniting with Pixies producer Gil Norton, the Crows tap him for the heavier, opening half. Tawdry descriptions of skinny girls who drink champagne/And take me on their knees again and Coloured rubbers and a bedroom set from the wildly thrashing opener "1492" and twangier, shuffling counterpart "Sundays" respectively set a carnal tone for the first few tracks. By the time songs downshift to those helmed by Iron & Wine producer Brian Deck, lament hangs heavy. When Duritz wearily sings Now I live in the shadows/Where light is electric/And time is a number/That rests on a wall amid the gentle mix of wailing harmonica and banjo of "Washington Square," he's far from dialing it in. Meanwhile, borderline sturm-and-drang is averted by the breezy confessional "You Can't Count On Me" and mid-tempo optimism of "Come Around."
While this self analysis can be wearing, Duritz unflinchingly lets all his psychological baggage hang out. Haters may trot out the narcissism tag, but it's certainly preferable for a songwriter to fess up to autobiographical song facets versus tiresome guessing games as to whether topics are drawn from personal experience or not. (Geffen)
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