Album Reviews: Counting Crows Recovering the Satellites
Gill, Andy, The Independent (London, England)
Even among an unusually self-absorbed generation of American singers, Counting Crows' Adam Duritz operates at a peculiarly strident pitch of self-pity, investing the most innocuous of lyrics with excessive emotional drama. A classic solipsistic soul-barer, he just won't shut up about himself: there are more first-person-singulars in the lyric booklet to this album than even Morrissey would countenance. And when he runs out of words, there's still no respite, Duritz apparently regarding every instrumental coda as an opportunity to wail wordlessly along, in some misguided attempt to persuade us of the depth of his feelings.
There are a few signs that he realises how fatiguing this can be, as when he notes, "What a big baby/ Won't somebody save me please?" in the opening track "Catapult". But for all his vocal histrionics, Recovering the Satellites is remarkably complacent stuff, a bland blend of the most obvious influences, from REM to Springsteen, manipulated in a way that steadfastly avoids originality as if the very notion were tainted by some plague. Save for the occasional woozy whiff of Mellotron or Wurlitzer, there's none of the questing musical spirit REM exhibited on New Adventures in HiFi, for instance, just the glib surface similarity of tracks like "Angels of the Silences". And sometimes the group's lack of clear personal identity can lead them into disastrous mistakes: the hopelessly overwrought "Goodnight Elisabeth" sounds horribly reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", but with a worse guitar solo. Which, you have to admit, is quite some achievement.
T-Bone Burnette, who produced Counting Crows' previous album, August and Everything After, has been dropped for this follow-up - which seems a little ungrateful, given that the debut went sextuple-platinum in America alone. His replacement, Gil Norton (Pixies, Pere Ubu, Del Amitri), has downplayed the folk-rock elements and given more of a crunch to the guitars on tracks such as "Have You Seen Me Lately", but despite his best efforts, there's still barely enough room to slip a cigarette-paper between them and college-rock colleagues like Hootie & The Blowfish. Which, needless to say, is not a recommendation. MARILYN MANSON Antichrist Superstar Interscope IND 90086 It's complacent bands such as Hootie and Counting Crows that almost make one sympathise with the likes of Marilyn Manson, trash-thrash riff-mongers whose taste for sleaze would beggar even a Tory MP or Catholic bishop's best efforts. Naming themselves after notorious murderers - a big hand, please, for Madonna Wayne Gacy on keyboards - they reflect the seemingly limitless fascination for amoral debauch that has made murder virtually a spectator-sport in America. Continuing the fine, upstanding work begun …
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Publication information: Article title: Album Reviews: Counting Crows Recovering the Satellites. Contributors: Gill, Andy - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 11, 1996. Page number: 16. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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