Going platinum eleven times in less than fifteen years is an admirable feat for any recording artist, but Counting Crows have made it look cool. Dreadlocked lead singer Adam Duritz became sort of a poet of a generation, appealing to both young and old with his heartfelt lyrics and soothing vocals. The band’s newest creation, is the split-level Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. The so-called “Saturday Nights” section is a seedy romp through debauchery and confusion, posing more questions than answers as frontman Adam Duritz puts himself all the way out on a limb for listeners. The “Sunday Mornings” portion experiences a bit of twisted nostalgia, as the singer replays and then comes to terms with his faults.
”1492″ is perhaps one of the hardest-rocking songs that the band has ever written, fed by shimmering guitar riffs. The dueling dragons of guitar and piano on “Hanging Tree” play an interesting foil to the smoky feel of “Los Angeles” and the playful-sounding “Sundays.” All four tracks could be well-received future singles yet stand on their own as great additions to the Crows’ catalog. After a relatively blistering six-song Saturday night, the next seven drag a bit in places as the relatively sparse arrangements quickly lose steam (see the plodding, harmonica-laced “On Almost Any Sunday Morning”) and leave us wishing for Monday to come.
We encounter this misguided longing again on the chorus-heavy “Ballet d’Or” and “On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago,” which fails to impress musically or even keep our attention for its near-five minute runtime. That said, there are several highlights on the “Sunday Mornings” half of the album. “When I Dream of Michaelangelo,” lead single “You Can’t Count on Me,” and the surging album closer, “Come Around,” offer a solid mix of replayable songs but a few too many overall misses and overly drawn-out tracks for longtime Counting Crows fans.
Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings falls somewhere in the lower-middle of the band’s discography; it is more fluid than the immensely top-heavy Hard Candy, but lacking the near-infinite staying power of August & Everything After. Whether it builds a devoted following of new Counting Crows fans is up to the test of time. When publications begin doing retrospectives on the band for their Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame induction years from now, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings will likely be looked back on as a transition album as opposed to a cornerstone of their career, where Counting Crows tried to adapt to a changing music industry while remaining fresh and relevant as well as true to their roots.