Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Count: You Can't Count On Me


Purchase: You Can't Count on Me, by the Counting Crows

A dual threat here: A warning that you can't count on me, by a band that has named itself by one half after the action of counting. Not by numbers, though but more the collective images of wishing and dreaming. The band has made a wonderful song referring to the children's fairy tale of its own collective, being a murder (that's a gathering of crows). We could throw in a song about murder by numbers, as well, and still be revolving in the same metaphorical and imagistic theatre (that's a song by the Police). 

"You Can't Count On Me" was the second single release from the Counting Crows mid-career reflection on transformation, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings. Here was an album that featured an A side that was a blistering collection of rare, fired up rockers, about fame, about success and excess. The B side was the comedown from the party, softer, more reflective, somber tunes, cottony and easier, as if to sooth the lingering hangover from Saturday night, and the overabundance that often leads to a the guilt of over-indulgence.

"You Can't Count On Me" serves as a bit of a warning, as well as a break up song. Adam Duritz, famous for his dating life (which is a bit criminal, given his talent for crafting poetry that triumphs as song, but is at its heart poetry, nonetheless), writes a lot about love, and the ease at which it fails, disappoints and breaks apart an otherwise resilient soul and psyche. This song is Duritz's final word, so to speak, about the disappointments of love and his acceptance at his own failures. When you listen to the work he's done since 2008, which sadly there hasn't been nearly enough of, Duritz seems more accepting of his losses, and has moved in a direction of his work that isn't as self-introspective. But at the time, "You Can't Count On Me" seemed to serve as the final word on his private life. 

And while the song seems to fit into the Saturday Nights side of the album, it's actually part of Sunday Mornings. Duritz said in an interview that he wanted to write a song about breakups that captured both the sadness of ending a relationship, but also showed the honest truth about the damages he felt he'd caused by coping to his culpability. It's a self-flagellating song, and Duritz pulls no punches on the sadness he knows he has caused. A brave sentiment, but one that fits with his ethos as a writer, to tell truths, no matter how hard, in a beautiful way. He said, "I wanted to write a song about leaving someone that alternated between honest sad feelings about the loss and brutally honest admissions about the damage done. However honest my regrets have been and however much I ‘did the right thing.’"*

The power of Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings comes from its relatability and realness. One need not be a rock star to regret excesses or the choices we've made. We hurt people, even when we don't intend to; we are self-serving creatures, even if we have the ability to recognize what we've done wrong and how we should have been better. We don't alway achieve redemption despite how hard we might work for it; even after we give up the habits that cause problems, after the initial lightness of freedom, we still feel the sorrow and the grief. Life can't always be a Saturday night; eventually the morning comes and we wake to a clarity, no matter how muddied or sad. 

The quote from the Adam Duritz interview comes from the always phenomenal and long lasting music blog, "Ryan's Smashing Life" http://www.rslblog.com/

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