As first tipped here earlier this month, California-based modern rockers Counting Crows are slated to release their fourth studio album this summer via Geffen. Tentatively titled "Hard Candy," the set

As first tipped here earlier this month, California-based modern rockers Counting Crows are slated to release their fourth studio album this summer via Geffen. Tentatively titled "Hard Candy," the set was produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, Dave Matthews Band). It's the follow-up to 1999's "This Desert Life," which has sold 1.1 million copies to date, according to SoundScan.

In an exclusive interview with Billboard, frontman Adam Duritz says the songs on the new record were created with an ear toward brevity and perfection. "For whatever reason, I was really in love with writing gems, perfect songs, and getting the things I had to say [out] in less time," Duritz says. "Sometimes I feel like writing eight-minute songs. And on this album, I was really obsessed with great, perfect pieces."

Enlisted to help in that pursuit was Smash Mouth producer Eric Valentine. Though enticed by his track record -- "he makes great pop singles," Duritz says -- the band couldn't gel with Valentine's detail-oriented style.

Before reteaming with Lillywhite -- who had earlier done some minor work on "Hard Candy" -- the group experimented briefly with Ryan Adams/Emmylou Harris producer Ethan Johns, who Duritz worked with while guesting on Adams' "Gold" (Adams returns the favor on "Hard Candy," co-writing the song "Butterfly in Reverse" with Duritz). Though the group re-recorded the songs it worked on with Johns, some of the producer's arrangements remain intact.

On "Hard Candy," Duritz has penned songs of insomnia, drugs, debauchery, and the difficulties of life, love, and relationships. "Goodnight L.A." chronicles the singer's incessant sleeplessness ("Daylight is coming and no one is watching but me"). "1492" is a story of loss of identity set against the seedy underbelly of Milan ("Pull me up and out the door/Past railway cars and training whores"). On "Carriage," he writes about a former lover's miscarriage of what would have been his child.

In addition to the material for "Hard Candy," Counting Crows also cut an album's worth of covers, which may be pulled together for a bonus disc or used on the Web. Some will be used as B-sides on European singles. Among the tracks that were scheduled to be recorded are "Someday I Will Treat You Good" (Sparklehorse), "Amie" (Pure Prairie League), and "Ask" (the Smiths).

Aside from two previously announced opening dates on the Who's summer North American tour and an April 26 slot at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Crows have signed on for a May 4 performance at Atlanta's Music Midtown Festival.

Below is a tentative track listing for "Hard Candy" (some names are working titles):

"Miami"
"American Girls"
"Richard Manuel"
"Goodnight L.A."
"New Frontier"
"Black and Blue"
"Carriage"
"Butterfly in Reverse"
"Mr. Deeds"
"Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood"
"Why Should You Come"
"1492"
"Good Time"


-- Wes Orshoski, N.Y.







The full text of Billboard's exclusive interview with Counting Crows from the March 23, 2002, issue is available in the Billboard.com members section.

For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.