Counting Crows: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Photos: Danny Clinch

The Counting Crows raise a ruckus and then feel kinda bad about it, but lose sight of the more rewarding middle ground.

Counting Crows

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2008-03-25
UK Release Date: 2008-03-24

If you detect a night-and-day shift in the middle of Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, it's by design. The first half, the "Saturday Nights" side, is aggressive and raw, while the "Sunday Morning" second-half is often filled with second thoughts fueled by a hangover cure within easy reach. As vocalist/songwriter Adam Duritz explains on the band's website, "Saturday night is when you sin and Sunday is when you regret. Sinning is often done very loudly, angrily, bitterly, violently."

Geez, who taught Duritz how to sin, because that sounds like no fun at all. And in some ways, neither is Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. It's an album of extremes, often capturing the far fringes of the band's sound, with little in between to act as a buffer.

On the "Saturday Night" side, the band make their intentions clear in raucous fashion. "1492" may be the fiercest Counting Crows track yet, full of guitar squall and Duritz racing through his lyrics like he's in someone's face, spitting venom. It might be hard to feel much sympathy for the plague of willing Italian babes that's apparently beset him, but he successfully conveys a sense of emptiness by the end, when he adapts the old children's rhyme about Columbus to his own ends. Songs like "Hanging Tree", "Los Angeles", "Insignificant", and "Cowboys" follow with their own variations of the band's newfound three-guitar attack. It's hit or miss. Many of the "Saturday Nights" songs have nice moments -- the Wilco-like solo that punctuates "Insignificant", the calm interlude about Boston winters in "Los Angeles", the snarling twang that characterizes "Cowboys" -- but overall, they abandon one of the band's strengths: Duritz's ability to wend his way through a song. His voice is a decidedly love-it-or-hate-it instrument, but there's no denying that frequent Van Morrison comparisons are well-earned, if only for Duritz's ability to toy with unconventional phrasings. Songs like "1492", however, give him little room for this as he spends most of his time just keeping up.

The "Sunday Mornings" side evens things out a bit. Stray glimmers of country influence abound on the disc's second half, from the banjo filigree of "When I Dream of Michelangelo" to the harmonica of "On Almost Any Sunday Morning", but for the most part, it's pretty straightforward midtempo rock and ballads. "On a Tuesday in Amsterdam" captures Duritz at his piano, much like how you'd expect one of his demos to sound. Similarly, "Washington Square" provides him with minimal backing, and "Le Ballet D'Or" runs at a low hum before blossoming into some intriguing dissonance. The "Sunday Mornings" portion, though, doesn't always hold the same spark that you expect from the best Counting Crows songs, or the balanced mix between pop hooks and Duritz's lyricism. So yes, this listener is admittedly placing a bit of a Catch-22 constraint on the band, complaining when they get too rowdy, and complaining when they calm it down.

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings directly challenges notions of what a Counting Crows record should sound like, but the most interesting moments come when each side takes a break from itself (ironically, resulting in songs that come closest to what we expect from the band). "Sundays", for example, takes a breather from the pace of its "Saturday" brethren to give Duritz's vocals and lyrics room to breathe. The "Sunday Mornings" side, for its part, rocks out a few times to its own benefit and provides moments like the radio-ready "You Can't Count on Me". Somewhere in the middle of all that are the pieces of another great Counting Crows record. Maybe we'll get it next time around.







Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.