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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Cracker

Garage D'Or

Review by Gary Hill

One of the bands that emerged when the great Camper Van Beethoven broke up, Cracker has always been an intriguing band that merges a poppy sort of mentality with a great alternative take on retro sounds. They are perhaps similar to what REM might be if Stipe and company didn't take themselves so seriously. Cracker have had a few good solid radio numbers through the time, and every album they have released is very entertaining. This double disc compilation is almost a box set minus the box. It showcases many of the band's more recognized numbers while including obscure material as well. For the avid fan this disc is a must have, while it represents a good starting point for others looking for a taste of this great band. Although, due the compilative nature of this collection, there are many musicians working on the various tracks, the core lineup here is David Lowery, Davey Faragher, and Johnny Hickman.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)
Screaming in in a fun and bouncy retro-alternomode, this is a great cut, and a wonderful way to start the disc. "What the world needs now is a new Frank Sinatra, So I can get you in bed, What the world needs now is another folk singer, Like I need a hole in my head."
This Is Cracker Soul
With an excellent retro organ sound, this song has a slow R & B/ Rock and Roll texture to it. A very strong piece, it has a wonderful chorus. "I see the light at the end of the tunnel, Now someone tell me it's not a train."
I See The Light
Featuring a slightly more stripped down approach, this is a solid metal cover of a very strong tune. The texture to the instrumental break is quite different than the original, but very effective.
Low
One of Cracker's finest numbers, this one screams, then drops back to a balladic mode. It has a nice trippy sort of texture to it, and some very fine guitar work.
Get Off This
Another bouncy rock and roll number, this one features a talk box. "If you wanna change the world, Shut your mouth and start this minute."
Sweet Potato
With a vintage rock and roll flavor, this a fun tune.
Euro Trash Girl
Based on a countrified sort of texture, this is a very good acoustic rock tune. "I searched the world over for a Euro Trash Girl."
Shake Some Action
Based on a mode that feels a lot like Elvis Costello meets The Clash, this is another strong one.
Sweet Thistle Pie
A great contrast, this one starts off feeling like hippie ballad, then turns almost Zeppelinish, in a balladic mode first, then getting hard edged and bluesy. It then drops to the hippie mode for the verse. The end result is a killer number.
I'm A Little Rocket Ship
Very strong alternative textures start this cut with an almost Beatles meets Zeppelin approach. Lyrically this one is very much in the style of early B-52's, but with a more stripped down rock and roll approach. The band asks of the aliens, "Do you suppose that they've been here?" With the answer being, "I don't know, but I've been there."
Big Dipper
Another slow number, this is a killer ballad. The lyrics on this one particularly stand out.
Seven Days
A punky sort of rocker, this one is quite solid.
Been Around the World
An alternative retro sort of cut, this one is a bouncy fun tune.
Be My Love
Starting in hard edged tones, this cut drops to an almost '80's new wave sort of verse. This one has a quirky arrangement and awesome tone. It is one of the best cuts on the set and really calls to mind Camper Van Beethoven's proggier moments.
Heaven Knows I'm Lonely Now
This is one that feels quite a bit like the country ballad side of the Rolling Stones.
Eyes of Mary
With a mellow progish intro, this bec omes a quirky sort of balad. It gets more energetic, playing with the original themes in faster modes.
Disc 2
Surf Billy
Feeling a lot like Duane Eddy or The Ventures, this is a fast paced and fun instrumental.
The Golden Age (Live)
This a rather countrified sort of ballad.
You Ain't Going Nowhere
Another one with countryish textures, this one feels more than a little bit like the Grateful Dead.
Hollywood Cemetary
A bluesy retro rocker, this is another one that calls up slight images of the Rolling Stones. It is a fun number and features some wonderfully toned guitar work.
Rainy Days and Mondays
Slow and off kilter in nature, this isa very unusual cover of this rock standard. It is a little hard to get used to, but definitely worth the effort.
China
A folky rock acoustic ballad, this is another strong cut.
 
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