Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Albums2010 #14: August and Everything After
This was the first album I ever purchased. OK, so it was cassette form- not in the hip, cool and rapidly vanishing medium of vinyl or CD- but on cassette and I think I did so purely because this album contained the hit single 'Mr. Jones.' That was my true introduction to Counting Crows, because around that magical time when everyone starts to discover and explore music, 'Mr. Jones' was everywhere on the radio. And it was the perfect single, really- you could sing along to it, it had a cool, sexy intro that spoke of dark, exotic nightclubs where Maria, the Spanish Dancer Adam Duritz sings about in the song spends her nights dancing. I loved the song, loved the album and to this day, love the band.
Yet despite the pop-friendly hit single of 'Mr. Jones' August and Everything After is a curiously melancholy album. And that can work for a lot of people a lot of the time, but its a bit of a shock when you find yourself suddenly drenched in melancholy. That's not to say that the album is bad- in fact, I could argue and probably would happily argue that if there's a better way to put the idea of what it means to be melancholy about life to music, I haven't heard it. Counting Crows really really nailed it with this album- it's a complete, beautiful collection of songs drenched in the melancholy of yearning for a better life, a better relationship a better anything- and even crazier: this was their first album.
There are other hits buried in this album beyond 'Mr. Jones.' 'Anna Begins' is probably one of my favorite Counting Crows songs of all time. I may be totally off-base with this, but the song reads to me as a last ditch effort to save a relationship- because, as the song notes 'Anna begins/to change her mind.' I wish I could speak more coherently on analyzing the music itself, because it's really, really good. Which doesn't really tell you, the reader anything much- but get this album, listen to it- you'll understand. I think the other song worth noting is the sly track 'Omaha' with it's lyric: 'Omaha, somewhere in the middle of America/getting right to the heart of matters/it's the heart that matters more/I think you better turn your ticket in/and get your money back at the door.' Anyone who's driven through Nebraska (a rare four hour, painfully long experience everyone should have at least once) can sympathize with the idea- yet strangely enough, Omaha's a pretty nice city to visit- of course, if you're looking for something a little more cosmopolitan in your life, then you probably would want to, as the song suggests, turn your ticket in and try to get your money back at the door.
Overall: This album is always gonna have a special place in my heart, because it was the first one I ever actually spent money on. But aside from that, I really do think everyone should listen to this one at least once. Not many truly 'great' albums get produced in these days of mp3 downloads and lack of attention, but August and Everything After deserves to be right up there next to Nirvana's In Utero and Hootie's Cracked Rear View as some of the best music of the 1990s that's managed to stand up to the most important test of time.