Album Reviews


Counting Crows

Recovering The Satellites  Hear it Now

RS: 4of 5 Stars


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After Counting Crows' 1993 debut album, August and Everything After, went multiplatinum, the band took heat from hipsters who typed its classic-rock influences – Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones – as conservative. The Crows were seen as blunting the triumph of grunge, although Hootie and the Blowfish soon came along to assume the burden of that unfair charge. But lost in that quick dismissal is the fact that the Crows' influences are the same ones that inspired such punk saints as Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine. Lost also is the reality that serious, worthy ambitions drive the Crows, ambitions that they largely achieve on their second album.

Recovering the Satellites doesn't so much depart from as further develop the sound defined by the Crows on their debut. "Angels of the Silences" and "Have You Seen Me Lately?" are raunchier and more guitar charged, but for the most part, the Crows' richly textured folk-rock arrangements – with intertwining guitars and keyboards providing emotional settings for Adam Duritz's impassioned vocals – remain intact. As a lyricist, Duritz has stayed consistent as well. In song after song, he searches for what can last in a world that too often generates hopes and aspirations that only end in disappointment.

If August and Everything After was the diary of a band desperately seeking to make its mark, Recovering the Satellites documents the struggle to hold onto a personal identity in the wake of fame. "These days I feel like I'm fading away/Like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio/Have you seen me lately?" Duritz wonders in one track. On another, he sings of "Got Ben Folds on my radio right now," seeming to envy the possibilities still lying ahead for a younger band such as Ben Folds Five. Success has exacted a loss of purity, too: "I ain't all that innocent anymore," Duritz admits in the lovely "I'm Not Sleeping," a title that suggests "I'm not naive" and "I'm not at peace" – allusions to the toughening experience and nagging sense of guilt that come with innocence lost.

For reasons not especially clear, the 14 tracks on Recovering the Satellites are divided into four sections, an example of the pretensions that occasionally afflict the Crows. No matter. This is a deeply satisfying album, and that satisfaction deepens further over time. "It's a lifetime commitment/Recovering the satellites," Duritz declares in the title track, and that assertion is the beginning of an important wisdom: You combat the transience of the world by making sure that what you create has the integrity to last. The past few years haven't been easy for this band, but there's much more to come. Counting Crows are here to stay.


(Posted: Nov 4, 1996)


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