As we approach the year end best-of lists, I’ll post reviews of a couple of more contenders for best of 2009. This review ran in the print edition of Bucketful of Brains.
“The whole thing’s coming down”, sings Cracker front man David Lowery, “so let’s just get out of the way”. Like Cracker would ever be the deer in the headlights. Approaching the twenty year mark, the band is far removed from their initial reputation as indie critic darlings, but like the post-apocalyptic cockroach, they survived the implosion of a shallow industry and surfaced stronger than ever.
Lowery’s full blown rasp is in fine form, and allowing all the band members to collaborate on the material seems to have given them new life – this album smokes. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is – confusing alien technology, time travel, a dozen sexual euphemisms – Cracker sells it with fire and passion. On one level, there are a few fist-pumping anthems like “Yalla Yalla” and “Hey Bret”, where power chords and repetitive lyrics lend themselves to seemingly mindless rocking. But underneath the surface, there’s a clear call out to walk away from the bullshit and get back to a simple and meaningful life. Musically, Cracker has done the same.
Johnny Hickman is a vastly underrated guitarist; he’s the Keef to Lowery’s Mick, the Woody to his Rod The Mod. His fills sweeten the gentle “Darling One”, turbo charge the punky “Hand Me My Inhaler” and (along with his harp playing) turn “Hey Bret” into a theme from a futuristic western. And when turned loose on his own, he’s equally twisted; the delicious country weeper “Friends” (featuring a duet with Patterson Hood) is as strong as other track on the album.
Cracker is more energized, hilarious and enthusiastic than ever. I won’t mind waiting three years between platters if they serve ‘em up like Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey.