This Desert Life isn't exactly an upbeat title, but the band's third studio album opens with a house party, a vow to get out of town entitled "Hanginaround" that jumps with the loosey-goosey hooks and bright guitar riffs of vintage John Cougar. The same craftiness powers the piano-fueled "Mr. Potter's Lullaby," as well as the slower-paced "Amy Hit the Atmosphere," about someone who catches "a rocket ride out of this gutter." "Four Days" robustly reconstitutes R.E.M., just before Counting Crows unleash a couple of the best things they've ever done: "All My Friends," which boasts a superb melody, and "High Life," in which Duritz rises to the occasion of a stellar arrangement featuring discursive strings, spacey synths and river-deep basses.
What Duritz loves more than Bob Dylan's or Van Morrison's ghosts is words, words, words. At times on This Desert Life, you really wish he'd get more succinct -- especially on "I Wish I Was a Girl," in which he goes on and on about movies and honesty. But on "Speedway," all his circling themes about coming and going, loving and losing, Hollywood and the heartland come sizzlingly together. Here he's just a guy considering putting L.A. in his rearview mirror, gloriously rewriting "I Shall Be Released." This Desert Life could have been only the sound of Adam Duritz moaning. But Counting Crows never let him just sing into his sleeve.
(Posted: Nov 25, 1999)
Click the play button.
Register or enter your username and password.
Let the music play!