Recovering the Satellites

Recovering the Satellites

Adam Duritz had sung repeatedly about wanting to be a star on the Counting Crows’ breakthrough hit, “Mr. Jones.” But when fame came, he did not find it easy. By the end of 1994, as the group’s debut album, August and Everything After, laddered its way up the charts, Duritz was already over the invasive nature of celebrity. “There are, like, intense amounts of people that know very personal things about me,” he told a journalist. “The repercussions of it are pretty weird.” And that was before his brief romance with Friends actress Jennifer Aniston—whom he’d met at the Hollywood bar where he had often bartended and played—made him dreadlocked tabloid fodder. So Duritz did what he’d done pre-stardom, retreating into his notebooks to write songs that again reckoned with his turmoil. With the clout of a multi-platinum album at their disposal, the members of Counting Crows plucked producer Gil Norton, an indie-rock mainstay who had worked with the Pixies and Pere Ubu. The result, 1996’s Recovering the Satellites, is a brilliantly bifurcated record. More than half the songs hinge on the screaming guitars of the great Dan Vickrey and the pled confessionals of Duritz; the rest arrive as arching ballads, pretty and pained. The rock songs roar, the band tangles inside Duritz’s quest for redemption. By the end of “I’m Not Sleeping,” he’s nearly screaming his frustrations as the guitars coil around him like hands around a throat. And “Have You Seen Me Lately?”—with a lead riff befitting the Pixies’ Doolittle—is a fascinating bit of young rock-god introspection, one that finds Duritz contemplating the way he changes as distant strangers memorize his words. It’s all something to whimper and shout about, as he does time and again during this cathartic hour. But it’s those softer songs that have made Recovering the Satellites so memorable: The acoustic devotional of “Monkey,” the shameless yearning of “Goodnight Elisabeth,” the California dreaming of “A Long December”—the latter an accordion-laced ode to allowing yourself to hope, no matter how foolish it seems. Recovering the Satellites didn’t sell like its predecessor, but its rage and range testified to a focused and curious band that wanted to be more than mere paparazzi fodder.

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