|2. Mrs. Potter's Lullaby|
|3. Amy Hit The Atmosphere|
|4. Four Days|
|5. All My Friends|
|6. High Life|
|8. I Wish I Was A Girl|
|10. St. Robinson In His Cadillac Dream|
_Recovering the Satellites_ was inconsistent, and not helped by its production, which tried a little too hard to sound like the music of its day. On _This Desert Life_, you get a sense that the band relaxed, took its time, and really got it right. Top to bottom, there isn't a bad song on the album, and it's beautifully performed and recorded.
"Hanginaround" kicks things off joyously - a classic single which returned the band to the charts in defiance of changing times. Then, knowing they've got your ears, the band lays down another ace, heading directly into "Mrs. Potter's Lullabye". Over the span of eight minutes, Adam Duritz runs through a typical laundry list of concerns: the ghosts (and circus animals) in his head, his latest crush, and the possible futility of making music (and indeed, life itself). The song's energy never flags and it never meanders; the band plays its dynamics well, and builds momentum with each succeeding verse. Those who say it's too long need to either take some Ritalin or check their pulses.
Some of the album's other highlights inlude "Four Days", a near- Byrds homage with Rickenbacker and chromatic harmonies... also the cinematic "High Life" and the very catchy "St. Robinson and his Cadillac Dream". The bonus track requires a little searching for, but it's fun too. Yes, Adam Duritz does tend to chronicle every detail of his life and psyche on record, and this seems to grate on some people (I know it bugs me when Joni Mitchell does it). But whatever you think of the lyrics, the man writes a great hook and could sing the L.A. phone directory. The music really is the star here, with tastefully applied guitars, mandolin, lots of good organ playing, drums that sound like they're right next to you, and orchestration that tastefully enhances the proceedings.
"This Desert Life", while not as emotionally powerful as "August and Everything After", or as resonant as the high points of "Recovering the Satellites", it is, for my money, the most consistant and complete statement the Crows have made thus far. The guys also get high marks from me for not falling into the "too-long album" curse that plagues a lot of bands these days. 10 concise songs (11 counting a hidden track), none of which sound like the others, topped off by beautiful, rootsy production. The high points? The bouncy "Hanginaround", which opens the album; "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby", a song of love to a movie star that feels almost cinematic in its scope; "I Wish I Was a Girl" an interesting gender flip that features a nice, swirling, psychedelic arrangement, which makes it feel nothing like anything else in the Crows catelogue.
On the whole, it's a memorable album that should grow more appreciated with time.