This is my account of a concert that I went to recently:
I recently spent an evening at a musical performance of Maryland-native jam-band O.A.R. (Of A Revolution). The concert was solid, the crowd friendly, and the bros out in full force. Yes, you read correctly – the bros were in their element.
As I pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I saw made my (strong, well chiseled) jaw drop to the floor (immediately followed by uproarious laughter) : An approximately 22 year old Caucasian male, shirtless, sitting on the roll bar of his jacked up yellow convertible Jeep Wrangler, complete with a can of bro-favorite Natural Light – more affectionately known as Natty. This is too good (funny) to be true.
Apparently, beautiful (often scantily clad) girls go for this, because there was one nearby every bro.
I decide that I can have too much fun with this: I will join them. I make a solemn promise to myself to “bro out” until the night is finished. I remove my shirt, grab a solo, and begin what seemed to be a never ending evening of guys chanting, arms slung over one another, in the bliss of drowning away insecurities with beer and “Bro-therhood.”
After 3 solid hours of tailgating, my friends decide that the crappy opening band is done, and that those of us with lawn seats need to get a good spot. We get a good spot – front “row” of lawn seats, but to our dismay the opening act is not finished. We are happy to hear them announce that this is their last song, and that they are from Sydney, Australia. OK, so the Sydney thing isn’t that great, but we are certainly glad to hear that they are soon going to shut the hell up. Their “last song” is a 20 minute slow jam that nobody there liked. Their feet apparently were cemented in place, and there were no words. Then they decide to tell us again that they are from Sydney, and that this is their last song. Everyone there though that they played the same song again.
After the set change, the lawn starts to fill up. This is a homecoming show for Rockville, MD darlings O.A.R., and people are excited. The energetic jam-band has grown recently in popularity, famously being one of the “smallest” acts to sell out Madison Square Garden. By the time the lights dim, you cannot sit down. Merriweather Post-Pavilion is at capacity.
O.A.R. plays a great show for their voracious hometown crowd, but I think that the real show was not on the stage, but in the crowd. My buddy’s friend is truly enjoying himself. I turn around and see him talking to two girls who had been hitting on us earlier – I tried to keep my distance. They were nothing special. I turn around again a few minutes later, and Jared is making out with both incredibly below average girls. They had tried to say that he was gay, and he later told me that he had to “prove them wrong.” This saddens me in a way, because I had been told multiple times that night that we both looked and acted the same. I feel like my allowance of him to make this grave mistake was similar to me doing it. I felt better about a half an hour later, when he was dancing with what I will refer to as a “Babraham Lincoln.”
At least 75 percent of the people there are not wearing shirts. And if they are, they are either lacrosse jerseys or have a popped collar.
I did not break character. I am a method actor. I feel like the Daniel Day-Lewis of investigative reporters. A guy spills some beer on me, and apologizes. “Sorry bro – my bad.” I break into a brief but severe fit of laughter (as do my friends who are aware of my objective). “No problem bro,” I reply, huge grin on my face. He offers me a cigarette, which I decline. I decided not to call him “bro” again, lest he catch on to my thinly vailed “bro-verload.” (Note: Bro-verload is the abundance of bro related topics, or conversational over usage of the word itself.) I’d like to see Geraldo’s mustache do that.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought to myself, “I had a great time.” I had a great time… pretending to be a bro. Oh no.
To put it simply, they’re back. Most people —myself included— think that Counting Crows have spent the past 6 years writing catchy little ditties for the Shrek soundtracks that appeal to both eight year olds and their moms who listen to it on the way to school. But when the opening track “1492” explodes like a shotgun blast to the gut, it’s a whole different game. The first 70 seconds of the album reference guns, all-night partying, skinny girls performing fellatio, and tranny whores. Ladies and gents, we are no longer in the Kingdom of Far Far Away.
“Hanging Tree” keeps the rapid fire good times rolling, complete with screaming guitar solos and all the hooks you could ever cram into a chorus. The song slows, then winds itself back up like drinking off a hangover. It’s the musical equivalent of running to catch the tour bus before it heads full speed for the next town.
“Los Angeles” starts out sounding like every Ryan Adams song about New York, which is to say it sounds like long, slow, whiskey soaked nights, which is to say it sounds like damn good rock n roll. Especially when the staccato chorus offers amends for sexing, drugging, and rocking: “I’m just trying to make some sense out of me.” Ah yes, rock n roll indeed.
“Sundays” trolls along with a Grateful Dead lead guitar before an echoing crash cymbal sends it into wistful crooning backed by mandolin. “Insignificant” is full of erupting guitar chords and high lonely solos that could be coming out of Springsteen’s amp. I couldn’t shake the feeling I’ve heard the song before, which is probably more a sign of a strong chorus rather than a retread.
The highpoint of the album naturally comes at the end of the Saturday half of the album. “Cowboys” returns to that crazy never-ending dizziness of “Hanging Tree”, but is darker. The song will turn sweet for a few bars but then it’s back down the rabbit hole. The song blisters as Duritz loses it beautifully. He gets angry, shouts, stutters, points fingers, and gives up. Favorite line of the album? “She says she doesn’t love me, like, like she’s acting/But it’s as if she isn’t talking/’Cause Mr. Lincoln’s head is bleeding/On the front row while she’s speaking”.
The second half of the album slows down to reflect on the morning after. The first song here, the lackluster going home song “Washington Square”, is a complete misfire. “Almost Any Sunday Morning” and “Michelangelo” are salvaged by pedal guitar, banjo plucking, and pattering percussion. In fact, these two are probably the best Sunday songs here with their tastefully rationed instrumentation.
“Anyone But You” helps break any mopey mold being cast. With its lilting coo, some odd effects, and a squawking guitar helps the album pulls itself out of a mediocre B side. The addition of the catchy first single “You Can’t Count on Me” buoys it even further. It has a simple 4/4 chorus that works well, which excites me because its not even their strongest song. If this one takes off with radio play then we could have a classic Counting Crows album on our hands.
But you can add “Le Ballet Dor” and “On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago” to the scratch list. Combined with “Washington Square”, these are the major pitfalls detracting from the flow of the album. Which is a shame because at 14 songs they could have spared a few songs and made an airtight album. I’m sure the desire to balance out Saturday night with Sunday morning led to some weaker songs being included.
“Amsterdam” is the real tragedy here. It has truly amateurish lyrics, complete with over explaining the context of the song (see song title), and tacking objects and verbs on the ends of lines to make rhyme schemes work. Some nonsensical lines muck up the song even more. “She is the film of a book of the story of the smell of her hair” just seems dopey. Same with the melodramatic “Come back to me!” chorus, where Duritz forces his strong voice to compensate for a weak song. I seriously can’t stand listening to that song.
Luckily the album closes on a high note, just the way it came in. Same tempo, but with a more conciliatory message that fits the Sunday theme. It just sounds like a closer, as the wounds of Saturday night have duly healed on Sunday morning. And it certainly echoes the Counting Crow’s favorite phrase. There are probably a half a dozen references to coming home, coming back, coming up, and coming around. Pretty fitting for a great band that has done just that. Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is one hell of a rock n roll album, especially the heavier half. And just like we can forgive “Accidentally in Love”, we can ignore the few missteps on the album’s second half. Duritz even says as much: “After I’ve been missing for a while…We’ll still come around. We will come around.”
Filed under: Music Reviews | Tags: bright eyes, dashboard confessional, music, music industry, the killers, the national
About once a month, I’d like to do a rundown of the music I’ve been listening to recently, and I encourage everybody to do the same. When you don’t have time to do a full album review, just give us a word or two about each album so we can share what is worth checking out ourselves. My friend and I have been doing this all year, and I plan on posting some back issues to get us started.
A) “Sawdust” by The Killers
B) “The Wire Tapes: Volume 1” by Dashboard Confessional
C) “The Shade of Poison Trees” by Dashboard Confessional
D) “Boxer” by The National
E) “Cassadaga” by Bright Eyes
F) “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” by Bright Eyes
G) “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn” by Bright Eyes
A) It’s that good.
B) Absolutely the best covers album I’ve ever heard. The breadth of Dashboard’s talent is really made apparent.
C) Sugar, baby. I’ve listened to this album something like 60 times in 2 months. 12 songs, 33 minutes, delicious pop sounds. *cough* Brian Wilson *cough*
D) Beautiful, wistful, symphonic.
G) I-can’t-even-believe-how-good-this-is-considering-its-electronic-folk good.
N.B. Yes, I linked to MySpace. Its the best way to listen to a bands music quickly. I’ve noticed since nthe networking sites took off, bands have really let their home pages slide. thisisbrighteyes.com? Sucks.