Cracker - Gentleman's Blues
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Story by Tony BonyataAlternative, grunge, techno, industrial, hip hop, blues, rap, drum-and-bass, old-school, new school. It may be me, but it seems like an awfully long time since anyone has produced a plain and simple rock album. You know the type, well-crafted melodies, choruses you can't shake, and maybe just a little bit different, or quirky, to give it an edge.
Cracker, a band with members from both the east and west coasts, just so happens to have released an album that fits that bill on their latest effort entitled, Gentleman's Blues.
On it, the creative core of the band David Lowery (lead singer, songwriter, rhythm guitar and ex-Camper Van Beethoven leader) and Johnny Hickman (lead guitar, songwriter and vocalist), along with bassist Bob Rupe, drummer Frank Funaro, and Kenny Margolis on keyboards, have tossed aside the notion of jumping on the sound-du-jour, and instead have focused on creating a refreshing album chock-full of well written songs, performed to the point.
From the by-the-book pop of the first single from the album, "The Good Life" and "Seven Days" to the Brit-pop sounding "My Life Is Totally Boring Without You" and the blasting, "The World Is Mine" these guys aren't afraid to say it loud, 'We're pop and we're proud!'
When they do stray outside of their catchiness, they wander into pleasingly familiar places such as the Pink Floydian, "Lullabye", a mellower number complete with Syd Barrett musings along with gospelly female warblings a la "The Great Gig In The Sky". Their musical jaunts also take them to the folkie, backwoods stomp of "Trials and Tribulations" and bluesy slide guitar on "Wedding Day" circa the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street. The snappy, coolness of "Been Around The World" and the off-kilter, carnival-esque madness of "I Want Out Of The Circus", as well as the country-tinged "Hold Of Myself" also help to create a broader spectrum of sound. While, at first, the song "Hallelujah" sounds a bit depressing, with Lowery's dead-pan vocal delivery and slow, reverbing piano notes, it turns into a stunning, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel bliss as angelic vocals float high above the simplistic melody.
As Lowery admits, "This record kind of encompasses everything we're about, and it includes elements from our three prior albums. A lot of the songs are about being in a band; self-mocking our complaints, and celebrating the weird stuff that needs to be celebrated. I didn't even realize it until we were mixing the album, when someone said, 'oh, it's a concept album about being in a band.'"
With keen pop sensibilities, acerbic humor and a clean, tight-fisted band, Cracker has come up with a minor rock masterpiece on Gentleman's Blues.
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