Counting Crows - 'Somewhere Under Wonderland' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 10, 2015    
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Proves that art, angst and quality music can actually all sit together very nicely.

I've been guilty in the past of regarding Counting Crows as one of those arty, pretentious bands. The kind that gets reviewed in the Sunday newspaper supplements raving over tales of tortured souls and poetic insight into the meaning of life. And whilst I still don't dismiss that concept entirely, the surprise and delight for me is that 'Somewhere Under Wonderland' works so well on many levels, take it as a simple collection of largely "radio friendly" Rock tunes and it remains a hugely enjoyable album.

Opener 'Palisades Park' is that tortured soul/lost youth tale remembering the ghosts of the past. A distant trumpet and piano set the tone for an eight minute epic of two friends growing up on the edge of society and outside acceptance, switching seamlessly between Adam Duritz storytelling, recital style vocals and an upbeat acoustic driven chorus. Elsewhere things have a lighter touch. 'Earthquake Driver' is a bright mid-paced Rocker, filled with classic Americana storytelling in true Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison style. 'Dislocation' is about the nearest CC get to a full-on Rocker as it powers along, guitars to the fore, to a huge chorus that makes it an obvious and memorable highlight of the album.

There's a Country-tinge to many of the songs on offer here, the brooding 'God Of Ocean Tides' and 'Cover Up The Sun', whilst 'Scarecrow' opens up with a Southern lick right out of the Lynryd Skynrd songbook. With only nine tracks running to around forty minutes (and 'Palisades...' taking up eight of those), it's not the longest album you'll hear, especially after a wait of six years since the last album of original material (with covers and live albums in the interim), but this has got to be viewed as a triumph of quality over quantity.

'Elvis Went To Hollywood' is another strong Rocker contrasting well with the mellow 'John Appleseed's Lament' that features and is built around some excellent slide guitar work. Duritz's narrative, storytelling vocals are rich in tone and emotion throughout without ever distracting from the quality of the band around him.

Counting Crows may never be perceived as able to match their early albums 'August And Everything After' and 'Recovering The Satellites', but this is a worthy shot and almost certainly their best since those two proving that art, angst and quality music can actually all sit together very nicely thank you very much.

Ian Parry

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