In the past few years I've been rediscovering the 90s. I guess it's just part of middle age to do this, but as I've mentioned before, for me that period comes with the emotional complexity of regret and depression as much as it does with the idea of reliving my youth. Recently I was reminded of one album I heard a whole hell of a lot back then that I had somehow, not forgotten, but put away in my mind. Listening to Counting Crows' August and Everything After again recently, several times, has made me really love this album a lot again in a way that is different than how I usually remember my 90s, and I think it's because what I mostly remember about this album now is how musically great it is.
Back in 93, there was a lot of this hippy, jammy thing going on with bands trying to be "authentic" in a way that really is much like what many hipster bands do now. There was this folky coffeehouse Americana flavor that came through in everything from Blues Traveler to Toad The Wet Sprocket and everything in between. As time passed and it all became commodified and turned into cliche, it got old and I pretty much wrote Counting Crows into that same chapter of history. Except the thing is, this album actually is authentic, without the quotes. It still holds up - the music, the poetry of the lyrics, even the earnestness of Adam Duritz voice, which can sometimes feel like a bit much, has an honesty to it that comes through.
Everyone knows "Mr. Jones" and it's "Brown Eyed Girl" evoking "shalalala" chorus. It was certainly overplayed and likely responsible for the explosion of this sort of thing to the point of obnoxiousness. But that is only the most recognizable song on this album and not even close to being the best. Even though if you pay attention to the lyrics, "Mr. Jones" is far from a happy little tune, in the context of the rest of this album, it's practically a party anthem. Not that the album is necessarily depressing, but it's even at it's moments of hope come with melancholy. And that, right there, is why I love this album. It's grey. It's almost as if it just starts raining in the room whenever I hear it. But it's not unbearable. From the opening lines of "Round Here" and beyond, it's drizzling mood that is somehow sad without drowning you. It inspires meditation, but not a new agey bullshit type of meditation. Just real contemplation.
Back then, I think this album helped me much more than I ever realized. That mood I just described may have very well kept me going through times that felt much darker. I always look back on those times with a certain sense of longing. I'm sure I've read somewhere that depression can become addictive. That the intensity of the sadness becomes a lure from numbness. But this album is one of the things that kept me from drowning. It kept me feeling without wallowing. I don't know. I just vaguely and subconsciously remember a sense of hope from lyrics like "I wanted the ocean to cover over me. I wanna sink slowly without getting wet. Maybe someday, I won't be so lonely. And I'll walk on water every chance I get." from "Time and Time Again" one of my favorite tracks on this album. And then there's "Rain King" which can best be summed up in this verse:
"Mama, why am I so alone?The band sounds tight throughout the album, and the dynamic range is pretty great. I think I need to get this on vinyl now. And look deeper into the rest of their catalog, since I don't remember them after this. Although while writing this I looked up some videos of them playing live from back then, including on VH1's Storytellers and, let's just say I almost erased this entire post because I was somewhat annoyed. I guess this is one of those cases where it's better to just listen to the album and let my mind fill in the blanks, judging the music on its own merits.
I can't go outside
I'm scared I might not make it home
I'm alive but I'm sinking in
If there's anyone at home at your place
Why don't you invite me in
Don't try to bleed me
I've been there before and I deserve a little more."