Cracker

Virgin, 1992

Ex-Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery fronts this trio-plus- drummer (Jim Keltner drums on a few tracks here). Contrasting fellow ex-Camper Jonathan Segel's hippy-mystic tunes with Lowery's seemingly ever more cynical lyrics, I can well imagine what drove the two apart. This debut album roars out of the starting gate with "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)", featuring lines like "What the world needs now is another folksinger/like I need a hole in the head". The sound is straight rock & roll, without Camper's ethno-ska elements. Guitarist Johnny Hickman contributes some nice lead parts as well as harmonica. "Happy Birthday to Me" reminds me of -- I swear -- the Travelling Wilburys (hmm, maybe it wasn't Jeff Lynne's production but Keltner's drumming that determined that sound!) "Mr. Wrong" is a faux-country tune that reminds me of Warren Zevon's "Mr. Bad Example" -- both songs narrated by their unsympathetic and unrepentant title characters, but where Zevon's is hilariously over-the-top, Cracker's tune comes off as a bitter attack on such lowlifes. "Mr. Wrong" was written by Hickman, so Lowery apparenly isn't the only cynic in the band. "Someday" is another song that sounds familiar -- for about 3 bars, it's a dead ringer for the Clash's "Lovers Rock". This album has its moments, but overall I find it less than satisfying.

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