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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Cracker puts on the Ritz at Luther's

Family-friendly grunge rockers Cracker are on the road again, now supporting their newest release Forever. If, after a couple of listens, Forever sounds a little mellower than expected from David Lowery, cut him some slack'he has been at it for 17 years in various guises, fronting the progressive folk outfit Camper Van Beethoven in the '80s and helping define alternative rock with Cracker in the 1990s. 




And those who thought that the release of the pseudo-greatest hits package Garage d'Or in 2000 heralded the end of Cracker were wrong because here is Forever, which features a somewhat rootsier sound than before. That sound, all organs and backup singers, although it goes through numerous tweaks on Forever's 13 songs, somehow still results in a homogenous and uninspired album, which definitely cannot be forgiven.  




The real disappointment is that a band like Cracker, which carved out such a nice garage-pop niche for itself in the '90s, made the decision to become a rather pedantic alt-country band. It is a real shame that not once on Forever does Lowery blow out his voice like he did all over 1992's Kerosene Hat'here, he is content to lazily drawl out his lines like D. Wayne Love of Alabama 3, which dies without the techno gimmick. 




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Some songs work fine, like the Mark Linkous-produced \Brides of Neptune,"" a mournful, low-key song about making a film in Bali, and ""Sweet Magdalena of My Misfortune,"" a regretful dirge about love gone wrong. But when things get upbeat, for some reason, they get obvious and predictable, like the ""track you down, steal your mail"" chorus of ""Superfan.""  




If Lowery should have learned anything from the success of Kerosene Hat, it is that people like them more when they keep the too-clever, self-serving lyrics to a minimum. He has always displayed a bizarre, fifth-grade sort of wit, one that some people really like and others find tiresome. Forever is mildly obsessed with the idea of being guarded by monkeys, which is kind of funny, but then again not really, and repeated references to this fantasy become grating fast. 




Forever closes with ""What You're Missing,"" for the most part a wretched Kid Rock parody which introduces all members of the band with so many bad jokes they start to get funny towards the end: The explanation of the difference between Cracker and rap/rock poser Uncle Kracker is painful, but somehow it is pretty funny to hear guitarist Johnny Hickman rap ""And I don't look like Richard Grieco/That pendejo looks like me."" Needless to say, it is not enough to save the album, and maybe Hickman should not be so smarmy: Another album like this, and Cracker may become the ""21 Jump Street"" of rock 'n' roll bands. 




Cracker will perform at Luther's Blues, 1401 University Ave. Saturday night at 9 p.m. Tickets are $17 in advance and $19 the day of the show. Garrison Starr will open. The album Forever is released on Back Porch/Virgin Records.

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