Get On With It: The Best Of Cracker
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/23/2006
Music audiences in the 90s were ready for a change, ready to move away from the calculated hair metal and pop that sold tons of records. With a few exceptions -- R.E.M., Metallica, Guns'n'Roses -- rock really had nothing to say and no musical breakthroughs to back it up.
So when the alt-rock explosion happened, people latched on to nearly any band that wasn't Def Leppard or Michael Jackson. This is why ordinary bar bands like Cracker and Hootie & The Blowfish became so popular. But now that alt-rock has died, listening to some of these lesser bands with fresh ears reveals they weren't all that special to begin with.
Most people remember Cracker for "Low," with the incessant chorus of "Hey hey hey, like being stoned." And well they should, for it's a blooze classic, lost in a thick haze of guitars and mood, a bit like early Aerosmith. It's also their best song, as this 15-song collection indicates.
There is already a two-disc Cracker collection on the market for the fans, so this one is for those who thought "Low" was pretty cool and wanted to see if anything else was good. And parts of it are great, but as a whole it rarely rises above good-time rock music for parties or car trips.
Get On With It is a fun listen throughout. "This Is Cracker Soul" also recalls early Aerosmith and "Mr. Wrong" is pretty straightforward country, an unfortunate tendency the band would indulge now and again. Some of the songs try to get by on more attitude than musical chops, and the results are entertaining but not really worthwhile, such as "Get Off This" and the hit "Teen Angst."
"Lonesome Johnny Blues" is a damn bluegrass song, which does not fit at all with the rest of this collection, but is good for one listen. "Euro-Trash Girl" has a Neil Young vibe and a rubbery bass line, with lyrics about being on the road -- think Johnny Cash on U2's "The Wanderer" with the singer a suburban white kid. "I've been around the world searching for my Euro-trash girl," sings David Lowery with as much straightforward emotion as he can muster, not realizing how sardonic the lyrics sound (unless he does, which would make sense, given the permeating irony surrounding the alternative movement.)
"I Hate My Generation" is a piledriving rocker that foreshadows the Foo Fighters, with heavy overtones and a cool lead guitar riff, but the song lacks a truly memorable structure, stopping only once to let the bass carry the song without any guitar work. "Big Dipper" is a country ballad that I could have lived without, while "Sweet Thistle Pie" recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival -- it is the biggest surprise here and a better song than I expected from this band.
The collection is chronological, but unlike others it doesn't taper off near the end -- to their credit, Cracker remained relatively consistent throughout their career. In fact, one of their best songs came from their last album -- the moody "Shine," with its lyrics of resignation and downbeat verses contrasting the more upbeat keyboard-laden chorus. Female backing vocalists also make an appearance, as does a keyboard solo to close the last minute of the song. "Guarded By Monkeys" isn't bad either -- I remember this one from my days as a DJ in college, and with words like "You are so beautiful / You should be guarded by monkeys," as well a string section, how can it not be entertaining?
As a band, Cracker is nothing too special, but that was never their aim. If you are a fan of alternative rock and/or liked "Low," you may enjoy this, but at least half the songs are either too country or too mediocre to recommend it as an essential purchase. On the other hand, it's all the Cracker most people will ever need.