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Counting Crows - Somewhere Under Wonderland (Review)

Counting Crows, Somewhere Under Wonderland

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ADAM Duritz and his Counting Crows deliver their first album of original songs in six years and evoke memories of classic bands such as The Eagles, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

These are songs dripping in classic songwriting values… songs that tell stories, that display thoughtful lyricism and which lean heavily on a guitar sound. But while there are some notable tracks here, there’s also a sense that Counting Crows needed to deliver a few more instant anthems to really stand a chance of recapturing their mid-90s status as one of San Francisco’s more essential acts.

That said, there’s an accomplished feel that suggests Duritz isn’t really bothered about appealing to the youth of today – more the journeymen fans and those who appreciate the good ol days.

This is evident in the eight minutes it takes for Palisades Park to unfold, somewhat leisurely. There’s a horn-backed opening befitting a classic cinema film before the track begins proper around the minute and a half mark. The tale that ensues chronicles two friends growing up in New Jersey in the ’70s and has a Mark Cohn/Bruce Springsteen kind of vibe.

In truth, it’s more of an album closer than an opener. But it suggests Counting Crows are doing things on their own terms.

More instantly gratifying, however, is the snappy Earthquake Driver, which combines hand-clap beats with tight melodies and slick guitar riffs. It’s also got a catchy chorus.

Dislocation also rattles along in a classic Stones tradition, with slide guitars jostling for position with quick-fire drum beats and gruff, lived-in vocals. You can well imagine it becoming a live favourite.

The Counting Crows’ ability to deliver a good ballad is evident on the laidback, highly endearing God of Ocean Tides and you feel the album might have benefitted from just one more of those (rather than the misplaced country vibe of Cover Up The Sun).

But two further highlights come in the form of the raw, ragged Scarecrow (which trades on some of the best blues-slide guitar on the LP) and the tongue in cheek Elvis Went to Hollywood, which again displays some fine guitar work to combine well with its sing-along chorus.

Hence, while Somewhere Under Wonderland is by no means essential Counting Crows (unless you’re a fan), it is a solid album that offers up some highly satisfying rock tracks.

Download picks: Elvis Went To Hollywood, Scarecrow, Elvis Went To Hollywood, God of Ocean Tides

Track listing:

  1. Palisades Park
  2. Earthquake Driver
  3. Dislocation
  4. God Of Ocean Tides
  5. Scarecrow
  6. Elvis Went To Hollywood
  7. Cover Up The Sun
  8. John Appleseed’s Lament
  9. Possibility Days