The story continues...
The Counting Crows aren't the only band to veer from very very good songs ("Hangin' Around", "Mr. Jones") to embarrassingly unlistenable cringe machines (anything they did for a soundtrack?), but I fear they're underrated because the dreck isn't a huge sonic departure from the good stuff. They always sound like themselves, as evidenced by this fine covers album, reviewed at PopMatters, excerpted herewith:
Genghis Khan's brother Don is sadly absent.You gotta hear this new Counting Crows album, they sound like a BAND!
They’ve recorded 15 covers with as fine a sense of group interplay as you’ll find outside the jazz world.
“Covers?” I hear you say with some alarm. “Isn’t this the band who blighted the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack with a terrible version of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, itself a pretty bad song?” Yes, over the course of their respectable 20 year career, the Crows have left behind them a smattering of cloying idiocy for which they’ll one day have to answer. Not here, though.
For example, lead single “Untitled (Love Song)”, a floppy Romany Rye song that could’ve easily been titled “Throw Your Arms Around My Neck” (or maybe just “Neck” if they were Brad Paisley), starts with a plain old electric guitar riff over which Duritz starts singing, then another electric saunters in, along with the drums and piano, until finally the whole band is lurching around with their three chords. This additive maneuver is one thing you can do with a band, particularly a band containing three guitarists; in musical parlance it’s known as the “Hotel California”. (Enjoy the colitas!)
And sometimes the strategy is simply to smoke the pants (and metaphors) right off the song, as in their blistering rendition of Dylan’s Big Pink staple “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, during which Duritz collapses into fits.
He's a very good singer, you know? Reminds me of his contemporary Garth Brooks; there’s always the danger they’ll rely too much on their trademark vocal tics, in Duritz’s case oddly-shaped warbles and wordless scatting nonsense. Throughout this album, though, Duritz delivers the songs with unmannered ease, saving his Duritz stuff for key moments like the meltdown section of the Dylan song.
If you want rock ‘n’ roll to be galvanizing rebellion or something, Underwater Sunshine isn’t the place for you. But if you want your rock ‘n’ rollers to offer a feasible career option that sounds great, the Counting Crows do. Is it still rock ‘n’ roll? What else you gonna call it?