Review: Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland

Mark Rocks

Hi there, I'm Mark!If you need me, I can usually be found writing about pop music while I wait for the next Girls Aloud reunion.

It’s been a long road to Counting Crows’ latest album Somewhere Under Wonderland.  The album is their first new material in six years and marks their first release with their new label Capitol Records.  Luckily, Somewhere Under Wonderland shows that these issues have only strengthened the Crows’ sound, as it contains 49 minutes of pure, soulful folk-rock.

The album opens with the first single, ‘Palisades Park’.  It’s an eight-minute long epic, that sounds less like a coherent song and more like the result of a band who just don’t want to set down their instruments.  The chemistry between the bandmates is clear and infectious, right from the opening moments.  ‘Palisades Park’ is a winding journey of a song and the perfect introduction to this LP.  Adam Duritz’s vocals are as layered as ever, and on ‘Earthquake Driver’, he uses it to wring emotion from every lyric. It’s rare to hear a band successfully merge raw and honest lyrics with an upbeat and joyous sound, so to hear it happen so effortlessly on songs like ‘Earthquake Driver’ and ‘Cover Up The Sun’ is nothing short of rewarding.  In the hands of another vocalist, the line ‘I just don’t wanna go home’ could become a throwaway chorus, but on this album, it truly taps into the introspective and often weary aesthetic the band has consistently developed over the years.

The lyrics on this album range from poetic to heartbreaking, and the music only serves to showcase them, never to overpower.  In the most heavily country influenced song “God Of Ocean Tides” (which Duritz admitted was the first new song he had written in years), he sings ‘I know I said I never loved you but I might try again tonight.’  As the rest of the band join him for harmonies on the chorus, this song is an explicit display of each member’s talents.  And that’s really the point of this album and the Counting Crows themselves.  It’s an entirely collaborative effort, as it should be, and along with Brian Deck’s production, it is a truly cohesive and celebratory reminder of this band and their skills.

All this is not to say that Counting Crows have reinvented the wheel on this album.  It’s merely a continuation of their sound (aside from their covers and poppy numbers like ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and ‘Accidentally In Love’), but it’s a welcome continuation.  The album is undoubtedly a triumph and should please fans of Counting Crows as well as bring them some new listeners, particularly in this time of Mumford and Sheeran folk-lite popularity.  The Crows are taking the album on the road in Europe and the UK this November, with the dates below.