In Defense of Counting Crows: Read Eric Slick’s empathetic essay on why they’re his jam
Eric Slick, who plays drums with Dr. Dog, and is a member of the punk band band Lithuania, gets right to the heart of the matter in an article he wrote for The Talkhouse. The title? The Counting Crows Taught Me Not to Give a Fuck About the Critics.
“Today I’ll be defending the earnest jangle of California’s Counting Crows,” writes Slick, about the band’s incredible 1993, T-Bone Burnett produced debut album, August and Everything After.
In his excellent article, Slick recontextualizes the Counting Crows after years of the band being many critics’ whipping post. Slick writes that August and Everything After:
…arrived in the fall of 1993, and it eventually became the fastest-selling record in the U.S. since Nirvana’s 1991 release, Nevermind. A band that has sold so many copies must be objectively good, right? Wrong — at least according to some. Counting Crows have become somewhat of an inside joke amongst snooty musicians and the hipster cognoscenti. They’ve even been accused of marketing their sincerity.
Still, why do we care what the music journalists and music snobs say? The Crows didn’t care, and in the process they countered the trends and outlasted a lot of their contemporaries. I believe that this could be the key to having a career in music. The Counting Crows remind me that it’s OK to write things that a discerning music writer might toss off as inauthentic or referential.
Slick points out that Entertainment Weekly gave the record a D-. Yet Thom Jurek, reviewing the album for Rolling Stone, led with this:
Great rock & roll is often cinematic, creating worlds that listeners can enter, sonic moments that they can live in. What is most impressive about August and Everything After, the debut album from the Bay area quintet Counting Crows, is how many such moments there are.
August reveals a restless, confident band of songwriters who are steeped in the rock tradition yet anxious to extend it. It’s easy to hear the group’s influences – the Americana-drenched imagery and multi-instrumental explorations of the Band (“Omaha”); the entrancing soulfulness of Van Morrison (“Mr. Jones”); the lonesome Joshua Tree-era U2 (“Ghost Train”); the rootsy rock of John Mellencamp (“Rain King”) – but it’s much harder to specify the place from which music like this comes. And while the songs are almost always about individuals left wanting and lost, it is equally difficult to pigeonhole the Counting Crows’ sound.
The Crows, fronted by Adam Duritz, is a band that Slick has “unlimited empathy” for. And because Slick writes what he wants to write, not giving a fuck about what the critics say or write about his music, Slick feels “a certain responsibility to defend bands that have been shunned by critics and hardcore music fans alike.” The point of it all? Slick concludes:
I’d like to conclude this re-evaluation with a call to arms. I get into heated arguments with fellow musician friends about arena-sized bands that seem to receive no critical recognition. These artists are overlooked because of some personal vendetta or because they’re “too big,” “too banal,” or, my least favorite: “too jammy.” We should continue to look at these bands with a critical eye, but also remember that it’s OK to let our guards down — because we all have embarrassing taste. Especially me.
Read the full article by Eric Slick here.
Have a listen to August And Everything After below.