When it comes to straight talking, Noel Gallagher is very rarely off the money. Asked at the height of Oasis' fame how he was dealing with being in the public eye Gallagher remarked: "I hate pop stars who go on whinin' about the price of fame and this that and the other.

"Let me just tell you that being famous is great. I love it, man. I think it's the best when you get stopped walking down the street for an autograph, that's the best feeling in the world. Then you get people like Eddie Vedder, you know what I mean? It's like, what's the point? Why is he in a band if he's so pissed off, you know what I mean? Why don't you just work in a car wash or like McDonald's or something?"

Like Vedder, Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz might also contemplate a career change. Not one to shy away from playing the tortured artist card, Duritz's wordy lyricisms and petulant vocal delivery have managed to say very little over five albums beyond complaining about how being famous isn't all it's cracked up to be.

On 'Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings', he's is at it again. Bemoaning celebrity dating, he sings "If you see that movie star and me/ If you see my picture in a magazine/ I'm just trying to make some sense outta me". Elsewhere, on the radio-rock of '1492', it's the spiritual emptiness of being surrounded by Italian disco girls who "take me on their knees again" that has Duritz in the throes of depression.

The Crows' approach to 'Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings' was to make a record where one half would see the band "rock out" and the other would capture them in a mellower come-down mood. The sin and the shame, as Duritz put it. The reality however isn't a record operating on twin speeds simply because the Counting Crows have never managed to operate on any speed other than neutral.

The 'heavy' first half is middle-of-the-road rock - the sort of which characterised much of 1996's 'Recovering the Satellites'. On 'Hanging Tree' and 'Los Angeles' (co-written by Ryan Adams) Duritz and co reach for fifth gear while stuck in first and as a result, come off like cheesy pop stars trying to "rock-out". There is even some head-shakingly awful ad-libbing on the latter.

When the radio-rock blends with introspective pop however, the first half of the record begins to work better as the Crows slip into more comfortable skin. 'Sundays', 'Insignificant' and 'Cowboys' notably bare debt to REM and all echo the finer moments from 'August and Everything After'.

The 'Sunday Mornings' side beins with two of three references to Ireland. On 'Washington Square', Duritz sings of wandering "the highways of Dublin" where he "heard the songbirds of Ballyporeen" - the latter a reference to Tipperary songbird Gemma Hayes, who has toured with the Counting Crows and written with Duritz.

'On Almost Any Sunday Morning' Duritz hits one of his better lyrical achievements, with the frontman singing openly of his depression without linking it into his professional achievements.

Elsewhere lead single, 'You Can't Count On Me' makes for typically insipid Counting Crows and is one of the worst tracks here, while 'On A Tuesday In Amsterdam Long Ago' is calling out to be included in some US team drama. The poor second half ends with the uninspired 'Come Around' before belatedly finding some kick, melody and balls in bonus track 'Baby, I'm A Big Star Now'.

Recorded in two separate sessions by two different producers, 'Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings' reeks of rushed birth despite a gap of six years since the release of its predecessor. The Gil Norton produced 'Saturday Nights' undoubtedly makes for the stronger half and was completed in early 2007. 'Sunday Morning' was meanwhile partly written while on tour last summer and recorded thereafter.

The rush to complete tracks to fulfil Duritz's concept for the album is all too evident, and ultimately 'Saturday Night & Sunday Mornings' sees a band beginning to run out of ideas and unable to box above their limitations.

Steve Cummins