Culling The Herd: Cracker

Read the original "Culing The Herd" post here.  Song / album titles take you to the iTunes store!

Cracker, "Cracker" - 5 stars.  Dig it.

David Lowery was the lead singer for the late, lamented weirdo new wave band Camper Van Beethoven.  After they (inevitably) blew up in a haze of pot smoke and internal squabbling, he hooked up with a childhood buddy and started touring LA...I found them through a Rolling Stone article that mentioned Lowery in (as I recall) a semi-disparaging way.  I had loved CVB, despite their loopy drugginess, and immediately bought Cracker's debut record.

And it's terrific - there are still some flights of fancy here, but it's generally just straight-ahead countrified alt-pop with some hooks ("Satisfy You" is a major highlight, hooks-wise...it's one fo those songs that I will sometimes re-play a second time, even after hundreds of listens).  Lowery still has the stoned surfer-dude vibe but this time around he sheds some of the crazy extended violin and mandolin solos for straight four-piece.  Still a really good record.

Cracker, "Kerosene Hat" - 5 stars.  Dig it.

Another terrific record, a little bit tighter with few more hooks.  Again there's an appealing surfer dude-ness (from "Movie Star": "Well the movie star | Well she crashed her car | But everyone said she looked beautiful | Even without her head" still cracks me up with its terrible black humor), but the singles - "Low", "Movie Star", and "Get Off This" - are flat-out terrific pop songs.  It doesn't hold up beginning to end quite as well as the debut record, unfortunately, as there are some real duds here.  "Kerosene Hat" is not great.  "Lonesome Johnny Blues" is a silly novelty, and there are a couple so-so songs, but they all stay.  I think.

Cracker, "The Golden Age" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

Disappointing.  "I Hate My Generation" is a great start, but the next song ("I'm A Little Rocket Ship") is a classic side-b novelty throwaway that you add when you're trying to fill out the record...the next seven songs feel like filler, then they rip into three really good songs ("Sweet Thistle Pie" and "Useless Stuff", and "How Can I Live Without You").   In the past, Lowery's loopy drugginess would be saved by a hook, but in this case, when he goes there he goes all the way down, and the hooks are reserved for the straight alt-pop tunes.  Hard to describe and weirdly inconsistent.