moments before the wind.

January 23, 2006

wrapped in grace and sin

Filed under: authenticity, music, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 12:35 pm

I came across this great rant by Adam Duritz today, and in light of a recent mention of my love for Counting Crows, I think I'll devote some time to paying my respects.

Back in December, Duritz posted a lengthy communique to his fans in response to browsing their comments on the forums on the website. He berates them for buying into the media's penchant for "name-calling like a bunch of 3rd graders." Here's a slice of the attitude:

Why let that shit filter down into your lives? Do you really want to waste your valuable time trying to make value judgments about people you don't even know. You have to be aware that your opinion in that instance is meaningless. There are so many other areas where intelligent thoughtful people's opinions are important and valuable. Shouldn't you be more interested in that?

Apparently it's an extended defensive response to a lot of insults that he took personally, understandably I think. At one point he goes on about Ryan Adams, because they are friends and he doesn't want to be involved in Adam vs. Ryan debates. At another point he make a broader cultural statement:

I think there's a way in which music is a real status attachment for fans. It has a lot to do with the way you see yourselves and the kind of groups of people or cliques you identify yourselves with. Maybe that's where all this us and them stuff comes from. Maybe that's why it doesn't exist so much for musicians. We, at least musically, just identify with ourselves.

Now, there's a lot in that last sentence that rings true with me. As someone who is highly critical of mostly all music, I can understand the separation between self-involvement and interaction with others who are similarly self-involved. BUT, Duritz makes a classic mistake here. He condemns the posters on the forum for having an "us and them" mentality, claiming to be all open and accepting and non-judgemental, while simultaneously creating his own hierarchy: "musicians" vs. "everyone else." He's operating from an implicit "us and them" standpoint.

I don't mean to expose hypocrisy, only human nature, and precisely what I've always been attracted to about Counting Crows. Anyone who listens to Counting Crows' music would know immediately that the gray areas, the muddled, indistinct confusions of knowing something so truly on an internal level, are a defining characteristic of their work. Duritz sings it best himself, in almost every song. One that pops to mind is "Rain King": I belong anywhere but in between, although I know these sentiments are present across the board.

It's something I identify with, something I have understood since about 7th grade. And you know what? Like Ryan Adams, Duritz is notorious for a cranky, irrational personality. Shadows and tightropes and rain are stock characters in his lyrics. I admire his reactions, however skewed and conflicting they may be. You can read the whole posting here, and his previous writings here.

I think that there's a latent optimism in a lot of Counting Crows' songs. I honestly can't say whether it's intentional, and I can't call it hopeless romanticism either. I certainly wouldn't paint Duritz as a Byronic hero though. His advice, which could be applied in so many ways, still stands for me in the halls of important things to remember: for all the things you're losing, you might as well resign yourself to try and make a change…

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