Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18: Counting Crows, "August And Everything After"

Artist: Counting Crows
Album: August And Everything After
Year: 1993
Label: Geffen

The early 1990's were a glorious time for music lovers. In every direction, the boundaries of music were being pushed and altered. Amidst the explosion of grunge and gangsta rap, five guys from Chicago decided to make the case that morose lyrics and accordions were just as good a sound as any other. The quintet, Counting Crows, released one of the finest records of the decade with 1993's August And Everything After.

Overall, August And Everything After is a very grey record. Feelings of the fall season with a bit of a chill in the air permeate the mood of the record. Each song has a distinctive, beautiful melody that provides an excellent shell for singer Adam Duritz to hide inside with his lyrics. The songs are all wonderfully smooth and relaxing, yet somewhat haunting and disturbing at times. The juxtaposition between the graceful melodies and the gloomy vocals create a seemingly impossible balance that is simply stunning to experience.

Duritz took this record to immediately cement his legacy as one of the finest lyric writers ever. His lonesome words, sung with as much heart as anyone, are many times reminiscent of early Springsteen albums. Though the album does get upbeat at times ("Mr. Jones" and "Rain King"), overall it is a somber affair.
The morose, broken emotion in Duritz's words and delievery can be summed up with his line, "'s 4:30am on a doesn't get much worse than this..." If you have ever experienced this feeling, you are well aware that somehow, in the words and delivery, Duritz nails the emotion to perfection.

Combining the accordion along with the always gorgeous Hammond B-3 organ overtop a "standard" rock band instrumentation makes the music of Counting Crows immediately identifiable. The songs all have insanely catchy hooks and, when they are quicker tempo tunes, the songs are as pop-radio friendly as one can imagine. The mega-hit "Mr. Jones" is a perfect example, as it is a perfect pop song, yet it is a lyrical lament of the struggle to the top of the music scene and dealing with what comes along with fame (in later years, Duritz would admit that the lyrics were also a reference to his own drug issues at the time). In a sadly ironic coincidence, "Mr. Jones" topped the Billboard charts three days after the death of Kurt Cobain.

Not a single song on this record is a "skipable" song. Every tune is brilliantly heartbreaking and further cements the album as a true masterpiece. Duritz sings, "...I wanna be Bob Dylan..." during "Mr. Jones." With the lyical barrage he unleashes on August And Everything After, it is clear to anyone that he certainly has the writing talent to equal his idol. Along with his backing band, they successfully created one of the finest records of the decade with August And Everything After.

Standout tracks: "Perfect Blue Buildings," "Sullivan Street," and "Raining In Baltimore."


Steve Balboni said...

I'll add you the the small but strong list of us who think this is a really strong record and an all to easily dismissed band. The radio hits on this album ensure that many hipster music snobs just don't give it the respect it deserves. Glad you included this one.

CasCbus said...

This album continues to have a strong presence in my musical world as well. I can connect so many memories listening to this album it's insane. As you stated, the music & lyrics presented here are another wonderful gift that came out of the 90's.