I don't consider myself much of a Counting Crows fan, but through the years many of their songs have sunk in and often they remind me of certain times, places and feelings. “Mr. Jones” takes me back to high school and my own dreams of getting out, becoming somebody, being important. “A Long December” places me exactly in my friend's Blazer driving down the Atlanta Highway in college, and “Hangingaround” finds my memories landing on the backwoods of northeastern Oklahoma driving with the air conditioner on and the windows rolled down as the sun shines and my truck blazes down the highway.
After the third album I completely lost track of the Counting Crows, but with Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings they have resurfaced and they sound ready to win me over again. People are saying that this album is a return to form for the Crows, but honestly I wouldn't know. I'm not sure where they moved to or if they are back, but this sure is a fine rock-and-roll album.
The guitars are louder than I remember them being. On songs like “1492” and “Hanging Tree” the guitar screams like it's trying to get everyone's attention. Elsewhere on songs like “Los Angeles” they sound exactly like the Counting Crows I know. The bass creates a loose and slinky beat while the guitar adds frills and colors to fill the sound out. Adam Durtiz sing-talks his way through lyrics about finding himself while being a celebrity. It is probably my favorite song on the set as it both shakes my hips and gives me enough introspection to make me think a little.
The rest of the album alternates between upbeat "dance about your house like Tom Cruise in his undies" ditties, and acoustic ballads full of Duritz' sad bastard lyrics. Even then there is a subtle happiness that penetrates and celebrates each song.
Take “Washington Square” for example. The lyrics are all about the loneliness of leaving home while the music for the most part is soft and sad with a lonely acoustic guitar leading. Then the music builds and out comes this piano flittering like a butterfly across the room and there's a hint of an accordion and harmonica whispering in the background. The bass builds the music into crescendo and a banjo breaks through and it all explodes into something beautiful and free.
If I could call the album only one word, I would choose "fun." It is a great spring record ready to be blasted from car speakers as the listener zooms down the road with the wind in his face, and the sun on his back. I might have lost Counting Crows for a long while, but they are very much back, and the sounds I hear are sure to create more lasting memories.