The masterful kings of the full flavour traditional American sound are back with a host of sparkling new songs, which, although they are not necessarily their best, will still inspire you to hire a Cadillac and take to the nearest interstate freeway, or the M62, whichever is closest. Welcome to Counting Crows territory.
You do not have to travel far down the tracks to hear the Crows in top form in the shape of “American Girls,” which solidly proves their watertight consistency in relation to the songwriting standard set by their early years, notably “Round Here” and “Mr. Jones.” The song bounces with ultrasonic feel-good vibes from the outset and illustrates that they can approach a record with the same amount of vitality as they did on their first outing.
The opening of “Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood)” witnesses a facetious approach to the listener as Adam Duritz courteously asks, “Is everybody happy now?/Is everybody clear?/We could drive out to the dunes tonight/Because Summer’s almost here” over a charismatic piano riff, which then fades to give way to the song. Moments like these outline a more playful attitude in the recording process and put the listener at ease as Duritz invites the audience into the album.
“Up All Night” is a bracing song touching on the themes of liberation and deliverance, which reflects the new youthful energy that The Crows have seemingly found during the production of Hard Candy. This energy bursts the seams of “New Frontier” and “If I Could Give You All My Love Or Richard Manual Is Dead.” There is a sense that this is a band who are only midway through their career rather than coming to the end.
This album is also a gathering ground for an esteemed collection of guest musicians such as Ryan Adams, David Gibbs, Matthew Sweet, Sheryl Crow, and Leona Naess. However, it is disappointing that with such broad contributions, Hard Candy is still constrained to sound exactly like that on their previous albums. With such an impressive guest list, it almost feels like a wasted opportunity for the band to define a new edge. The front cover states “13 Fresh New Flavours,” which is surely only written for effect rather than to represent the music.
Even so, when all is said and done, the band seems happy to continue with the success that they have enjoyed so far. From the classic tones which ring out from “Good Time” and “Holiday In Spain,” you can almost hear the band saying “if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” How true.
Written by Paul Newbold.