Cracker may be considered a rootsy rock band infusing punk, folk and delta-blues all into energetic sounds that push the envelope… in a very good direction, I might add. A good ol’ fashioned rock band in some regards, yet singer/guitarist David Lowery’s performance is anything but traditional. The original frontman for the ‘80s indie outfit, Camper Van Beethoven, has been having his own say for over 20 years.
Shortly after CVB called it quits in 1990, Lowery began compiling material with guitarist Johnny Hickman and bassist, Davey Faragher. By 1991, Cracker was born, and soon after, they signed a recording contract with Virgin Records. Issuing their self-titled debut in 1992, Cracker’s refreshingly far from mainstream sound sold over 200,000 copies. They managed to double those numbers with their second release, Kerosene Hat, which became their best selling album with the MTV/hit single, “Low.”
With their third release, The Golden Age in 1996, Faragher had been replaced with Bob Rupe, while the drummer’s spot remained a constant hot seat (occupied by a trio of players: Charlie Quintana, Eddie Bayers and Johnny Hott). Throughout the late ‘90s Lowery concentrated on independent projects and eventually made his way back with 1998’s Gentleman’s Blues. A permanent line-up was finally secured as drummer, Frank Funaro and keyboardist/accordion player Kenny Margolis joined up with Lowery, Hickman and Rupe. The fifth studio album Forever in 2001 brought the band full circle – back to the eclectic-indie feel of Lowery’s former group, Camper Van Beethoven.
Their most recent Greatest Hits — Redux is Cracker re-invented, re-defined — that much better. The re-recorded tracks speak to hardcore Cracker lovers, covering avidly sought tunes such as “Euro-Trash Girl, “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” and “Low.” However, do not underestimate the remaining ten tracks (including an excellent bonus track, “Something You Ain’t Got”). Just be glad you got it; it’s truly Cracker.
“I See the Light” has greater than ever Gospel-infused harmonies while “The World Is Mine” resonates with caffeinated energy that bounces beautifully off the guitar. The Peter Frampton-esque guitar in “Get Off This” is as new and improved as Lowery’s voice, which at times throughout the album sounds like Lou Reed, Elvis Costello or Jacob Dylan.
However, “Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself” is definitely the coup d’etat. The song implicitly describes the less than amicable parting of ways between the band and Virgin Records. Would Cracker consider this song one of their greatest hits? Probably not, but the message is clear. It’s not coincidental that Cracker is releasing Greatest Hits-Redux under their new label, Cooking Vinyl, while EMI/Virgin Records is releasing “Get On This: Best Of Cracker” at exactly the same time.
While both compilations appeal to Cracker devotees, Virgin’s Best Of Cracker features original studio versions of the band’s singles while Redux features songs specifically re-recorded for this set. Redux definitely gets my vote: offering new twists to classic Cracker tunes. Either way, Cracker makes out well while stickin’ it to the man.