Kerosene Hat


Virgin, 1993

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


 I still can’t believe there was a time in radio where you could actually be sick of hearing Cracker. The then-inescapable tunes were “Get Off This” and “Low,” both from their 1993 sophomore release Kerosene Hat. Cracker enjoyed minor success with “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” the snarling, infectious single off their self-titled debut album, but Kerosene Hat was able to capitalize on the “anything that sounds remotely alternative is good” radio days of the early 90s.

Truth be told, David Lowery deserved some of the monetary rewards from the alternative rock explosion of the 90s. Camper Van Beethoven, the band Lowery was in before Cracker, was one of the more influential acts of the late 80s. While Cracker may not have been as revolutionary as Camper Van Beethoven, they were quirky enough to defy categorization.

Kerosene Hatmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is the sound of a band throwing anything it can to the studio walls and hoping something sticks. The thing is, most of what Cracker threw in Kerosene Hat stuck. “Low,” the leadoff track, has a riff that you can’t get out of your head and a chorus that’s just as catchy: “Bein’ with you girl / It’s like being low / hey hey hey it’s like being low.” Right after that song, it’s anything goes. Optimistic half-slacker, half-motivational speeches “Get Off This” do-si-do with country-influenced tracks (way before the alt-country craze took off). And to close the album (at least, according to the liner notes), an amazing cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Loser.”

However, “Loser” isn’t the final track on the album. Kerosene Hat was one of the first major albums to take full advantage of the ‘hidden track’ function in CDs -– ballooning the CD’s length to 99 songs (most of them after track 15 utter silence) and putting three songs on as “hidden tracks.” Arguably the most beloved hidden track is the six-minute-plus ode to bohemian listlessness “Eurotrash Girl.” The song details one of the worst weekends you could ever have in a foreign country: having your car broken into, getting ripped off by a junkie, getting a case of the crabs, calling your folks for money only to have them hang up on you; but somehow, the chorus of “Yeah, I’ll search the world over for my angel in black” still leaves you hopeful.

True to Lowery’s punk roots, Kerosene Hat’s DIY feel reaches all the way to the recording studio. The band proudly states they built the recording studio themselves (the Soundstage in Pioneertown, CA). It’s ironic that the band sweated and toiled to make this studio and used the studio to record a bunch of stoner odes to aimlessness.

Kerosene Hat is far from a perfect album. Their second hit, “Get Off This” wears out its welcome after the third listen and some experiments had to be placed in the album for the band’s amusement but not for fans (see “Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab”). But even with these missteps, Kerosene Hat deserves to be in the upper echelons of the “great moments of college rock in the 90s,” not the ‘buy used for $0.01' graveyard, which it is currently inhabiting on Amazon.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2006 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.