"Sunrise in the Land of Milk
and Honey" CD
Genre: rock, indie rock, country
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
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.
"turn on tune in drop out" video,
"sunrise in the land of milk and honey" live and acoustic
[Vitals: 11 tracks, distributed by
released May 5, 2009]