Song of the Day #2,256: ‘Earthquake Driver’ – Counting Crows

counting_crows_somewhere_under_wonderlandMy wife and I saw Counting Crows in concert a few months ago, in a sort of 90s throwback show with opening band Toad the Wet Sprocket.

They sounded wonderful. Frontman Adam Duritz looked like he’s just crawled out of a dumpster but his distinctive voice was in top form and he rattled off his intricate lyrics without a hitch, owning every moment onstage.

Duritz shocked me by announcing the upcoming release of a new album, only their sixth studio record in the 21 years since their memorable debut.

But the two songs the band played from that album — ‘Palisades Park’ and ‘Elvis Went to Hollywood’ — were jumbled and rambling. I know, it’s unfair to judge brand-new material the first time you’re hearing it, especially in a live performance, but I was very underwhelmed.

Well, now the album has been released. It’s called Somewhere Under Wonderland, and I’m happy to report that ‘Palisades Park’ and ‘Elvis Went to Hollywood’ are the two worst tracks on it. The rest is very good.

The bad news is that the record is only nine songs long, so its rewards are fleeting and few. But with Counting Crows, it’s always been about quality, not quantity.

‘Palisades Park’ is the opening track, and it’s a meandering 8-minute epic that gets interesting every couple of minutes or so but then falls apart again. It wants to be ‘Round Here,’ the first epic album opener the Crows delivered, but falls way short.

Things pick up quickly with ‘Earthquake Driver,’ a splendid pop morsel in the vein of ‘Rain King’ or ‘Mr. Jones’. Adam Duritz is famous for his introspective, moody songs but for my money his true gift lies in far more traditional pop songcraft. This song, along with ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘Dislocation,’ make the album a fun listen.

Best of all is ‘Cover Up the Sun,’ a country-tinged track that became an instant favorite before I’d even finished hearing it once.

Another highlight is ‘God of Ocean Tides,’ the one acoustic ballad on the record. It’s a lovely bit of writing and performance.

Overall, Somewhere Under Wonderland falls in the middle of the pack of Counting Crows albums. It’s better than Saturday Nights and Sunday Morning and Recovering the Satellites, not as good as August and Everything After or Hard Candy.

It and This Desert Life can battle for the third and fourth slots. The latter has a nice trump card with ‘Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby’ so it might not be a fair fight. But it would be fun to listen in.

I was born again a little north of Disney Land
Somewhere under Wonderland and Hollywood
But then I had to go skipping and diving and bouncing back to New York City
Straight through the heart of America where all the wild things grow

I want to be an earthquake driver
I want to be an aquarium diver
I just don’t want to go home

I mean, I live alone but I am hungry for affection
I just struggle with connection til the water calls me home
Down into ocean among millions of other lonely people
Drowning among the only people we are ever going to know

I want to be an earthquake driver
I want to be an aquarium diver
I just don’t want to go home

I want to be like the people I see
They run all over just like me
I was saved but what keeps me awake
Is I’m tied into the lightning line
And I wanna be where the sun is shining
All night just a waste of time I, I don’t want to see people like me
Just sleeping in, waking in, hoping in, hating in

You look at me like I’m some kind of carnival attraction
You say love’s this abstraction, just some ghost that you chase
Well, I am sorry friend, I am a blank space
But the words you remember from whenever you saw my face

I want to be an earthquake driver
I don’t want to be an aquarium diver
I just don’t want to go home

I want to be like the people I see
Hey man, they run all over just like me
I want to thank for what keeps me awake
This unplugged ears to the lightning lining
I want to see if the sun is shining
All night, chasing time I, I don’t want to be with people like me
Just creeping in, waking in, hoping in, hating in

So what is the point of this famous self absorption?
We turn ourselves into orphans and then spend out nights alone
Living in fear of some kind of imaginary consequence
Terror incognito, ob-la-di ob-la-da

I want to be an earthquake driver
I don’t want to be an aquarium diver
I just don’t want to go home

Truth is I don’t want to be no earthquake driver
And I don’t want to be an aquarium diver
I just don’t want to go home

Oh man, just don’t want to go home
No, I do not want to go home

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,256: ‘Earthquake Driver’ – Counting Crows

  1. Dana says:

    I generally agree with your review. I have now heard the whole album about 2 1/2 times through. It is growing on me with each listen, even the songs you cite as weaker. Duritz has said that he made a conscious effort to not write about personal stuff on this album. That is all well and good for the upbeat fare like today’s SOTD, but probably explains why something like “Palesaides Park” falls short.

  2. Maddie says:

    I agree with pretty much everything you said, and this album is definitely growing on me as I listen to it more. Earthquake Driver in particular has become something of an inside joke in my dorm room because of how often I blast it and sing along to the chorus. Adam’s voice is always fun to mock 😛 I am glad that I went in with low expectations for this album (due to your less than shining review after seeing the new material in concert), and was happily surprised by the majority of the songs. 🙂

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