My "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" review

April 2nd, 2008

Tom Cruise. Justin Timberlake. Derek Jeter. Tom Brady.

These are, according to Best Week Ever, some of “The 10 Greatest Heterosexual Men Of Our Time.”

Number one on that list, compiled last year? Adam Duritz, the schlubby Counting Crows singer with Sideshow Bob dreads. Surprise? Well, he’s bagged Jennifer Aniston, Wynona Ryder and Courtney Cox, to name a few.

Duritz doesn’t exactly have Timberlake’s abs, but it’s pretty easy to understand his appeal: the dude wrote “Mr. Jones.” He’s a brilliant wordsmith and poet (the same exact reason girls today go gaga for Ben Gibbard).

But, ladies. Listen to any of his albums — really listen — you’ll have enough sense to stay away. This man has some serious baggage. If you date this guy he’s probably going to write a horribly depressing (and hauntingly beautiful) song about it. But that’s good news for anyone who buys his records, including his latest, “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.”

The new album details Duritz’s disintegration into fame, alcohol and medication on the first half (“Saturday Nights”) and his road to recovery on the second (“Sunday Mornings”). To put it bluntly — first half: loud, rocking guitars. Second half: subdued folk.

“I’m a Russian Jew American/Impersonating African Jamaican,” Duritz announces right at the start. It’s also a proclamation — “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings” is not about any of the girls who pop up again and again in the Crow’s discography (Elizabeth, Maria or anyone else). This is an album about Duritz, about his struggles with depression and fame.

“Saturday Nights” details his breakdown. Duritz drops trou, literally, for nameless girls in an Italian disco, on “1492.” He stumbles drunk along Sunset Strip in “Los Angeles,” looking for skinny girls and a taco. “Saturday Nights” closes out with “Cowboys,” a rollicking case of personality disorder, which plays like Counting Crows’ greatest hits in five minutes.

Whereas “Saturday Nights” is littered with west coast references, “Sunday Mornings” opens with Duritz slowly putting everything back together, taking stock of his failed relationships, in his new Greenwich Village digs, “Washington Square.”

None of this is done in a vacuum. The rest of the Crows are just as honest and expressive as their singer. Their musicianship has never been more evident, layering pianos on top of steel pedals, harmonicas and slide guitars, all to carry the emotional trajectory of each song.

If this all sounds familiar it should. The Crows tackled this ground before (harder rock, understated ballads, recovering from depression and dealing with fame) on 1996’s “Recovering the Satellites.” If anything, “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings” plays like a loose sequel to “Satellites,” lyrically, thematically and sonically (“Satellites” producer Gil Norton returned to the boards for the “Saturday Nights” half).  

“When I Dream of Michelangelo,” a gorgeous ballad at the center of “Sunday Mornings” swipes its title from “Angels of the Silences.” “Insignificant” might as well have been called “Have You Seen Me Lately Again” and “Anyone But You” could have been “Yet Another Horsedreamer’s Blues.” “1492” borrows a nursery rhyme, done to a similar effect on “I’m Not Sleeping.”

The good news then, is that as a sequel, “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings” is nearly as good as its predecessor. There’s nothing as instantly memorable as “A Long December,” but there are far fewer moments where Duritz forgets he’s in a recording studio instead of whining on a therapist’s couch.

“Sunday Mornings” ends on a hopeful note with “Come Around.” On one hand, Duritz hasn’t resolved all of his issues — his girl dumped him, but he seems to understand it’s for the best and can move on with his life. On the other hand, he might not be singing to a girl at all. This song plays also plays like a goodbye and thank you to his band, to their fans. If that’s the case, it’s a great note to end on.  

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072


New to the Crows? Forget the “Mr. Jones” and “A Long December.” Staff writer Josh Eiserike picks his 10 favorite songs.

1) A Little Discipline (“She Likes The Weather,” recorded in 1991 by Duritz’s pre-Crows band, The Himalayans. Rereleased in 2007)
2) Anna Begins (“August and Everything After,” 1993).
3) Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman) (“DGC Rarities Vol. 1,” 1994. “Films About Ghosts: The Best of Counting Crows,” 2004).
4) Catapult (“Recovering the Satellites,” 1996).
5) Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby (“This Desert Life,” 1999).
6) St. Robinson and his Cadillac Dream (“This Desert Life,” 1999).
7) Rain King/Thunder Road (“Face the Promised Land,” 2000).
8) Hard Candy (“Hard Candy,” 2002).
9) Holiday in Spain (“Hard Candy,” 2002).
10) Come Around (“Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings,” 2008).

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