Album Review: Somewhere Under Wonderland by Counting Crows
Very Good, Based on 6 Critics
Record Collector - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Counting Crows’ three most recent releases have been either covers projects (2012’s Underwater Sunshine) or live sets, suggesting frontman Adam Duritz was still struggling with the creative block that had plagued him since releasing Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings six years ago. All would appear to be rosy now, though, as these nine new tracks were written in little more than a week. Not that Somewhere Under Wonderland should be thought of as a rush job, as it contains some of the band’s most ambitious and thought-provoking songs.
By the time of Somewhere Under Wonderland, it had been a long, rocky road between albums for alternative folk-rock superstars Counting Crows. Plenty of music had come and gone since 2008’s emotionally divided concept album Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings -- a few live albums, a record of covers, and countless shows on multiple tours. These recordings all fell short of presenting that much in the way of new original music from the band, possibly due in part to the turbulent years that followed Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, an album that would be their last for long-time label Geffen and immediately precede a stretch of personal loss and struggle for Crows singer/songwriter Adam Duritz.
If you ask Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz what moment catapulted his band to stardom in the mid-‘90s, he won’t mention “stumbling through the barrio” on runaway single “Mr. Jones”. Instead, he’ll tell you the sea change began with a performance of “Round Here” on Saturday Night Live. “‘Round Here’ sums up Counting Crows,” the songwriter explains.
“You can’t keep your shit together / When God is on your side / What chance do you have when he’s not around. ” About a year ago, Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz said in an interview for this very website that the guys in his band thought that the album they were writing at the time, Somewhere Under Wonderland, would feature some of the best lyrics the singer has ever written. It wasn’t finished then, but from what his mates had already heard, they were certain that Duritz’s words would resonate the same way they did back in 1993, when August And Everything After worked its way into the sad hearts of millions of fans.
On the seventh Counting Crows album, Adam Duritz is still the same dreadlocked dreamer you remember from the Nineties, channeling Van Morrison, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen into word-zonked ballads that reference Jackie O., Elvis, Johnny Appleseed and more. Wonderland opens with the wild, innocent eight-minute hallucination "Palisades Park," then barrels through a buoyantly alienated set that only occasionally gets bogged down in meditative goop like "God of Ocean Tides." "I'm fading out in stereo/I don't remember meeee," Duritz sings on the roadhouse rocker "Dislocation," moaning a word he loves and an emotion that's still serving him well.
Sometimes the voice of an era is the one that you forget all about, the one that was so ubiquitous and inoffensive, it practically became background noise. In the 1990s, that distinction likely belonged to Adam Duritz, a jangly, scattered vocalist with a hobo’s air. His band, Counting Crows, had ….