COUNTING CROWS > Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Adam Duritz’s California dreams are a real nightmare. The Counting Crows’ frontman has been wishing for fame and, once he got some, bitching about it since the band’s 1993 debut. On the Crows’ breakthrough hit, “Mr. Jones,” he sang about how he wanted to be Bob Dylan or some other big star on that TV sitting in the corner of the bar. On Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, he’s still trying to convince himself that being famous is all it’s cracked up to be.Label: Geffen
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Adam Duritz’s California dreams are a real nightmare. The Counting Crows’ frontman has been wishing for fame and, once he got some, bitching about it since the band’s 1993 debut. On the Crows’ breakthrough hit, “Mr. Jones,” he sang about how he wanted to be Bob Dylan or some other big star on that TV sitting in the corner of the bar. On Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, he’s still trying to convince himself that being famous is all it’s cracked up to be.

But what’s cracking is Duritz. “I’m just trying to make some sense out of me” he sings in “Los Angeles” (which he pronounces “Angel-eeze”), yet another paean to the city where he’s bagged tons of Hollywood actresses and the place he’s attracted to like a bad hairdo. He concedes that nothing there is real (“All these people who impersonate our friends” is not only a line from one of the songs, it’s a hinge on which Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings hangs), but he really doesn’t seem to care, beyond an obligatory complaint or two. It’s a shrug doubling as gravitas.

And like hundreds of artists before them, Counting Crows take their Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings literally, dividing 14 songs between after-hours rockers and crack-of-dawn reflection. It can be a bit jarring: Gil Norton cranks the amps to 11 like he did with the Pixies, while Brian Deck gets all Iron & Wine soft on the more acoustic cuts. They weave together like hazy hangover memories.

Yet it’s all sorta fitting of the album’s split nature. “I am the king of everything/I am the king of nothing,” Duritz sings in the opening “1492.” And throughout Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings he struggles with this notion and the success he really should be used to by now. (The only thing the Crows recorded during the past five years was a song for the second Shrek movie. Plus, their last couple albums bombed. So really, dude, you’re not that famous.) Duritz laments “this dizzy life” in “Hanging Tree,” yet it’s pretty obvious he still digs the scene. After all, this is what he and Mr. Jones always wanted.