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Pissing off the Taste Police with Counting Crows

August 8th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Taste Police does not seem to have a cohesive position on Counting Crows (the lack of a “the” in their name is an irritant). But the groundswell seems to suggest that “loathsome” is an adjective which would accurately capture the mood in some platoons.

The notion of Counting Crows being the subject with which I aim to piss off the Taste Police will have tipped off the attentive reader that I do not share that sentiment. In fact, I am very sorry that I missed their concert in my hometown a couple of months ago, and I am very jealous of my Kevin Pietersen-fancying friend in London, who will see her favourite band and the deifiable Ben Folds on one bill in December (at this point, you may construct your own gag involving the timing of the gig and the word “long”).

Nevertheless, I can understand why some people might not like Counting Crows. Singer Adam Duritz – the only Counting Crow who actually has a name – looks, well, not well. My desire to see Counting Crows live is diminished by the notion of actually exposing my eyes to the sight of Sideshow Bob (I do respect the arithmetical blackbirds for depriving us of their likeness on successive album covers). Aggravating matters is the knowledge of Sideshow Bob allegedly having slept with three quarters of the leading cast of Friends. I like Friends. I do not like the idea of these nice people bumpin’ ‘n grindin’ with Mr Robert Underdunk Terwilliger. Eugh, I believe, is the contemporary technical term to express one’s nausea at such a disgusting image. Especially if one were to imagine Duritz at the point of climax doing that horrible “yeeeeah!” from the end of the otherwise great Rain King (the regular reader will know that I limit my celebrity sex fantasies to scenes involving Rutting Mick Hucknall). And then there was the ill-advised cover of Joni Mitchell’s Yellow Big Taxi, which seems to be something of an Exhibit A in the case against Counting Crows.

But if that is Exhibit A, then the case for the prosecution seems shaky at best. So we’d have Duritz’s displeasing physiognomy and coiffure, a shoddy cover, and an unmerited association with outfits like the deplorably bland Dave Matthews Band and Hootie & the fucking Blowfish (one thing Counting Crows certainly are not is bland; though, alas, they have performed with the ghastly DMB). And Duritz banging Courtney Cox, of course. Not enough, I submit, for a conviction in the court of pop opinion.

Dislike their music, if you like, even be indifferent to it. You dig or you don’t. But one cannot, ahem, discount the band entirely (and, I know, crow about it). Here’s what I like about Counting Crows: the lyrics are very good much of the time (at least when you can decode them); the melodies are usually pleasing; the nameless Crows are making good on their god-given musical talent by creating engaging arrangements; and Duritz can interpret a song lyric (and then some). It helps their cause, in my book, that the group is heavily influenced by The Band and Van Morrison (whose bad habits, like repeating a line over and over in a nauseating manner, Duritz has picked up; cf. The “How Do You Do”s in the mediocre Ghost Train).

I like the Counting Crows (yeah, grammar eventually has to crush their pretensions). I don’t like the idea of listening to a whole album, except, perhaps the New Amsterdam live set which was released in 2006, because I find Duritz’s anxious emoting overbearing after a while. Give us a joke, Adam, as you did on the debut with the song about your penis; if Mr Jones actually was about that. Come to think of it (and isn’t that clause a sure sign that the writer has abandoned all pretense of actually revising and editing his text), the debut album, August And Everything After, is quite extraordinary, Ghost Train apart. It is a concept album charting the cycle of love: wanting love, falling in love, pursuing love, being in love, hanging on to love, dying love, and the regret of a fucked-over heart. A simple concept which was superbly executed. I do think that Exhibit A for the defence trumps Big Yellow Taxi as sung by Sideshow Bob.

A couple of words about the songs posted below: the first two are from the excellent New Amsterdam live album (Holiday In Spain especially is quite brilliant); the gorgeously pained Goodnight Elisabeth from 1996’s Recovering The Satellites; Perfect Blue Buildings from 1993’s August And Everything After; When I Dream Of Michelangelo from the mostly disappointing new album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings; and the version of A Long December is a high-quality bootleg recording featuring Ben Folds (who was namechecked in their song Monkey from Recovering The Satellite).

Counting Crows – Holiday In Spain (live).mp3
Counting Crows – Richard Manuel Is Dead (If I Could Give All My Love) (live).mp3
Counting Crows – Goodnight Elisabeth.mp3
Counting Crows – When I Dream Of Michelangelo.mp3
Counting Crows – Perfect Blue Buildings.mp3
Counting Crows & Ben Folds – A Long December (live).mp3

Previously on Pissing off the Taste Police:
Simply Red
John Denver
Barry Manilow
Lionel Richie
The Carpenters
Billy Joel
Neil Diamond
America
.

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  1. Kevin Pietersen fancying friend in London
    August 8th, 2008 at 10:21 | #1

    How long did it take you to come up with all the puns?

  2. Any major dude with half a heart
    August 8th, 2008 at 10:53 | #2

    Trust me, I had to restrain myself from ODing on puns.

  3. My hmphs
    August 8th, 2008 at 17:22 | #3

    Counting Crows has been a victim of the Extraordinarily Popular Debut Song syndrome, and they’ve been tagged as the “Mr. Jones” band. And that’s sad, because I thought that song was even worse than “Ghost Train.” It didn’t help that they did a “Shrek” song, either.But August and Everything After is close to perfect; all of their follow-ups have been poor copies, with the exception of Hard Candy, which was pretty strong.

  4. Stephen Kuykendall
    August 8th, 2008 at 21:41 | #4

    Love these guys. I have to agree about the New Amsterdam album, but I throw Hazy into alot of mixes. I also doing digging online about the band have come across so many rare covers of theirs that I find amazing (Aimee, Blues Run the Game, Carmelita, Four White Stallions, You Ain’t Going Nowhere) that I now listen to these more often than their official albums. I’m a sucker for lyricists and Adam is up there in my book.

  5. Mr. Satan A. Chilles
    August 9th, 2008 at 00:18 | #5

    Wednesday evening I’m walking past the Delacourte Theater in Central Park and there’s a big crowd of folks congregating before the night’s show goes on. And I swear, who do I see sitting on a park bench in front but Adam from the CCs, and that same annoying hairstyle. And the name of the show playing in Central Park? “Hair”. I cannot make this up.Well, thanks for another POTTP, you’re spot-on again.

  6. Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas
    August 10th, 2008 at 02:49 | #6

    I was buying for a large record store when the first album came out and I must have received a dozen advance copies. It struck me as a pleasant record, but I largely ignored it. Paloma pushed me to give it another listen.I still love "Round Here" and through the years I've liked songs here and there ("Daylight Breaking" was one that really caught my ear). I tend to agree with My Hmphs. I watched the hip folks in our market embrace August & Everything After early, but, once "Mr. Jones" blew up, it seemed like all of the early supporters of the band couldn't ditch them fast enough.

  7. Anonymous
    August 13th, 2008 at 18:01 | #7

    What is your problem with definite articles? What addition sense do you glean from ‘The’ Counting Crows? It takes all the pleasure, mystery and action from the name. Besides, put a ‘the’ in front of Ramones and someone is gonna kick your butt over your ears.

  8. Any major dude with half a heart
    August 13th, 2008 at 20:47 | #8

    Actually, I sort of respect acts that dispense with the definite article, but it’s a bitch to write about them without using one. The Ramones would know what I mean…Stephen, I think CC’s cover of Van Morrison’s Caravan is quite excellent. And there’s a live version that works Springsteen’s Thunder Road into Rain King, and it works very well.

  9. Rol
    August 18th, 2008 at 14:29 | #9

    ‘Accidentally In Love’ was a classic. I can’t work out if they recorded that just for a Shrek soundtrack, or if it ever appeared on an album too.

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