steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion


"Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey" CD

429 Records

Genre: rock, indie rock, country rock

Michigan, USA

May 8, 2009

Cracker's albums have always been a somewhat uneven lot, with plenty to recommend but also a fair amount of filler to wade through. Still, I've long considered David Lowery to be one of the Big Important rock songwriters, someone who deserves to be remembered decades after the tunes stop coming. I may not be in the majority. To me, Kerosene Hat is a standby classic, and I might be one of the only souls on Earth who actually enjoyed The Golden Age. Despite my musical idiosyncrasies, however, Lowery's knack for immediate, memorable songs is not a matter to be debated.

Yet the 2000s have been hard on Cracker. As the stardust from "Low" settled, Lowery and co have worked their way out of the spotlight, moving from Virgin Records to a rotating cast of independents. Following the critical success and commercial failure of 2006's Greenland, the band signed on to 429 Records, the North American branch of Japan's century-old Columbia Music Entertainment label (unrelated to Columbia Records, in case you're wondering).

If there's one constant in Cracker's career, it's this: they know how to rock. As sure as the stars come up at night, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey boasts a strong set of infectious, punchy songs. Opener and lead single "Yalla Yalla" kicks off the antics, all decked out with a pounding rhythm section, throbbing guitar chords, and a slick set of hooks. It's fairly standard rock fare, perhaps, although the song structure is subtly distinct -- after laying out its groundwork, the song deftly pulls into bridge mode, metamorphosing into a different (if more infectious) melody altogether for the song's last minute. Sure beats a minute-long fadeout repetition of the chorus.

But the real treats are stashed deeper in the album. Propulsive night-riding opus "We All Shine a Light" is an energizing blast of foot-moving rock, although it is too exciting to ever become a radio single. Meanwhile, the sly title-track, which neatly concludes the record, is uncharacteristically epic -- an atypical highlight of the band's lengthy career. Sadly, the album's anthems are accompanied by inevitable filler. "Turn On Tune In Drop Out With Me" is nothing you haven't heard before, which makes it that much less excusable, while "Time Machine" is all energy but no content. Fortunately, between highlights and the filler lie several worthwhile, if unspectacular, tidbits. "Show Me How This Thing Works" is deliriously anthemic if flatly corny, and "Friends" is a sneakily charming Southern ballad.

Due in part to the interests of today's music listening population, as well as Cracker's lyrical and musical weirdness, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey is unlikely to rocket the band back into the mainstream music scene. Yes, this is a shame, but we can only hope that Lowery will keep on playing music even as audiences become increasingly difficult to penetrate. Some of us are still listening, and we like what we hear.

cracker's myspace


youuuuuuuutube!: "yalla yalla" video, "turn on tune in drop out" video, "sunrise in the land of milk and honey" live and acoustic

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 11 tracks, distributed by the label, released May 5, 2009]