Somewhere Under Wonderland (Capitol)
When Counting Crows emerged in 1993, their distillation of Van Morrison-inspired vocals and alt-country like melodies was truly unique. Their 1993 debut August and Everything After was an auspicious album that heralded a bright new talent. Now, after selling some 20 million albums, the group shows signs of running out of steam with its seventh studio album. Album opener "Palisades Park" opens with a bit of horn and piano before singer Adam Durtiz starts riffing, dropping images that suggest a mid-life crisis. The album has its moments — "Earthquake Driver" is a snappy number with terrific harmony vocals that make it sound like a Beach Boys tune, and with its call-and-response vocals, "Scarecrow" sounds like something the band might play at a hootenanny. But other songs don't break new ground — "God of Ocean Tides" is a dreary ballad that adheres too closely to past efforts. Duritz has an evocative voice and can still write with a poet's sense of imagery and detail. Somewhere Under Wonderland suggests he's lost the ability to separate the musical wheat from the chaff.