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Album Review
Counting Crows - August and Everything After Album Cover

Counting Crows - August and Everything After

Reviewed by
9.0
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
Record Label: Geffen Records
Release Date: September 14, 1993
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Counting Crows is one of the few alt-rock bands that originated in the 1990s that, instead of focusing on penning huge singles, erred toward the side of harkening to rock and roll bands from decades before them. The band doesn’t really sound like Bruce Springsteen or many of those heavier rock bands from the 70s, but their early career sees them taking after The Boss and such bands as Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd just because of their heavy focus on live shows, and because of vocalist Adam Duritz’s tendencies to become extravagantly poetic in songs and on stage. The group’s immense concentration on putting on great performances was instrumental in their early going.

August and Everything After was the debut album for Counting Crows, and it will also go down as their best-selling record, barring a remarkable sudden comeback of music purchasing, as it totals almost half of the group’s career album sales. This is thanks mostly to what can really be considered one of only two upbeat tracks on the album, “Mr. Jones,” which served as Counting Crows’ launch into commercial success. However, the first three songs on the record are all regarded as some of the most memorable songs of the 1990s – “Round Here,” with its storytelling style, and “Omaha,” with its catchy chorus, both stand out just as much as “Mr. Jones” but without as much appeal to the radio market.

The slow songs on the record are what make August and Everything After such a unique masterpiece, but they ironically also serve as the album’s only real downfall from the point of a legacy. “Perfect Blue Buildings” is a great song in the fourth slot of the album, where traditionally you place a slow song after the leadoff single – “Mr. Jones,” in this case. But “Buildings” slows things down almost too much, and while the song is good, it is probably one of the weaker ones on the record. “Anna Begins” doesn’t get any faster, but it’s a much better track. It’s actually my favorite Counting Crows song ever.

“Time and Time Again” and “Sullivan Street” are both rightly remembered for the slow but deep hooks in their choruses, but they sandwich “Rain King,” a song that is undoubtedly the anchor of the album’s B-side. It was the other successful single from the album, a bit more jaunty and upbeat than the other tracks right from the beginning. The acoustic guitars in the introduction provide the kind of feel-good melody that isn’t found in songs often enough, but there’s a pretty good reason why August doesn’t have too many upbeat numbers. As a whole, the lyrics on the record are overtly somber, with Duritz penning tales that reflect more of a “sit down with a drink in a comfortable chair and listen to this” attitude than anything else at times. This is brought out best by the slow nature of most of the record, but truth be told, there can’t be many people aside from diehard Counting Crows fans that still listen to this album with great regularity. This is unfortunately due to the fact that it’s so slow in general – something that I consider to be a strong point of the record dooms it in terms of how often people will come back to it. If you look at the strongest records of the 90s, many are more upbeat and feature more radio tracks in general – and if you turn the clock back a bit more, records like Springsteen’s Born In the U.S.A. definitely have that outstanding appeal due to their aggressive catchiness and speed. August and Everything After could most accurately be described as a “niche classic” – although it’s sold about seven million copies, it may never be as appreciated as it should be. However, it will always be as good a record as any to turn to when the summer fades to fall.

“Raining In Baltimore” is the best slow song that isn’t “Anna Begins,” but it’s such a drawn-out, emotional track that it often overshadows the brilliance of closer “Murder of One.” The heavier closing track is as essential of a listen as the first three tracks and “Rain King,” as Duritz’s vocal performance here may be his best on the entire album. August and Everything After propelled Counting Crows’ career, but it also leaves a lull in the band’s later material. There are a handful of good songs on the band’s four following LPs, with Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings perhaps having more so than the other three, but nothing has come close to being such a cohesive success as August was. It isn’t a perfect album, but Counting Crows isn't a perfect band. Adam Duritz has flaws and he wants you to feel them. August and Everything After is a flawed masterpiece if there ever was one, and the influence it has spawned on songwriters of every genre today should not be understated.

9/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 41
10:16 PM on 01/11/12
#2
LivingTheLyrics
What you feel will rarely rhyme.
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Man, your writing has improved leaps and bounds, Thomas. Kudos. Loving these retro reviews. This is one of those albums that I lump in with Foo Fighters' self-titled record and Make Yourself by Incubus(although that was released a fair bit later than the other two) that my older sisters played before I was old enough to discover music myself, and really shaped what I look for in a rock act, which in turn molded my tastes for other genres. Basically: nostalgia. Didn't expect to see you tackle an album like this, and also didn't know about the live release. Will be picking it up.
10:21 PM on 01/11/12
#3
Jake Jenkins
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i love this album so so so so so so so much. so much. i'm not a diehard counting crows fan but i listen to this album all the fucking time. great review though thomas.
10:32 PM on 01/11/12
#4
Chris Collum
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Love this album so much.
10:42 PM on 01/11/12
#5
NoOneRunsFaster
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Love this band. This is one of my top albums of all time. Fantastic review.
11:42 PM on 01/11/12
#6
njdevils327
You know Craigslist? That's my list
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one of the best albums of the 90s. came out 2 weeks after i was born
04:25 AM on 01/12/12
#7
JinxRemoving
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One of my all-time favorite bands, I love seeing this reviewed on this site. Brings me back to elementary school.
04:53 AM on 01/12/12
#8
lesterCorp.
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Although I would agree that this album is a classic, I wouldn't actually say it's their best. I personally think This Desert Life is the better album as (as you mention is a problem on this album) it's nowhere near as downbeat. Although they still manage to retain those powerful crows sad songs they've also got some great upbeat tunes (hanginaround, mrs. potter's lullaby, four days, st. robinson in his cadillac dream). It's just extremely consistent and heavy on atmosphere, it feels like an off-the-cuff recording; a band in a room jamming and recording it straight to tape (true rock 'n roll). Except I will say that Colourblind is it's massive blip on an otherwise immaculate tracklist.

I'd also say that Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is far and away their worst album. The first half is way too aggressive for a band with an average age of 45 and feels slightly forced. Whilst the second half is way too saccharin and self-indulgent. Basically they took their two best elements (rock 'n' roll and emotion), separated them and then took them to their extremes for the worse.

I'm really hoping for another Crows album this year which is more in-keeping with TDL and AAEA. Although another Recovering The Satellites or even Hard Candy would be fine too as both those albums contained some solid tracks but then also some shitters.
05:00 AM on 01/12/12
#9
ilovesofie
was I good to you, wife of my youth
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I absolutely love this album!
06:04 AM on 01/12/12
radiofriendly
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arguably the best album of the 90's. a '9' just isn't gonna cut it. This album introduced me to music. Great review by the way
06:05 AM on 01/12/12
mbao
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I've heard a song or two from them and really liked what I heard. Going to be checking this out.

Thanks for reminding me, shows how great of a feature this re-reviewing thing is.
06:05 AM on 01/12/12
get up kidd
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Fell in love with this record only a few months ago. "Anna Begins" is my favorite as well.
06:12 AM on 01/12/12
Craig Manning
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Glad to see a review for this, but I disagree with a lot of points here. You shortchange a lot of the album's best songs ("Round Here," "Time and Time Again," "Sullivan Street"), all of which I think are notable for their lyrics especially. I've never felt like this album is too slow or that no one revisits it. I still know a lot of people who love this album and never moved much further in the Crows catalog.

As for Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, it's easily (and I thought for awhile, unquestionably) their worst record, plagued by forgettable songs chosen more to fit the theme than to advance the record's musical level. That said, the other three albums are all incredible for different reasons, and they're all far more than your assessment of "a few good songs." None of them are as perfect as this record (and I do believe it is near perfect), but all explore different aspects of the band's sound, and each is consistently great.
06:36 AM on 01/12/12
brook183
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"Anna Begins" is probably my favorite, too.
06:56 AM on 01/12/12
almightykingdom
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Glad to see a review for this, but I disagree with a lot of points here. You shortchange a lot of the album's best songs ("Round Here," "Time and Time Again," "Sullivan Street"), all of which I think are notable for their lyrics especially. I've never felt like this album is too slow or that no one revisits it. I still know a lot of people who love this album and never moved much further in the Crows catalog.

As for Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, it's easily (and I thought for awhile, unquestionably) their worst record, plagued by forgettable songs chosen more to fit the theme than to advance the record's musical level. That said, the other three albums are all incredible for different reasons, and they're all far more than your assessment of "a few good songs." None of them are as perfect as this record (and I do believe it is near perfect), but all explore different aspects of the band's sound, and each is consistently great.
"Time and Time Again" has one of my favorite sections on the whole album! "So when are you coming home, Sweet angel? Ya leaving me alone? All Alone? Well if I'm drowning darling, you'll come down this way on your own."

This album got me into music and writing. Adam Duritz just has a way with words that can anything transcend normal ideas into complex layered thought-provoking lyrics.

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