By Daniel Garrett
Cracker, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey
Recorded by David Barbe
Mastered by Brent Lambert
429 Records, 2009
Cracker’s Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey—it’s rock and roll. Is there much more to say? I liked the music group Cracker’s Kerosene Hat (1993), featuring the song “Low,” and I have pleasant memories of discussing it with a young southern environmentalist (smart, friendly) during a boat cruise through southern waterways: it was music of attitudes and energies both hedonistic and shrewd. I imagine the group’s admirers will welcome the band’s new album Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey with curiosity and pleasure, and that those who have heard of the band but do not know it may take the opportunity to learn what the fuss was about.
The band of musical boasters, herders, and nut-breakers known as Cracker are singer and guitarist David Lowery, guitarist and keyboardist Johnny Hickman, drummer Frank Funaro, and bassist Sal Maida; and their influences include British rock and America’s southern music. Listening to Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, one can hear musicians ready to claim any sound that appeals to them, whether it’s the roughness of punk or the slickness of new wave. Beginning Cracker’s Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, the shiny, pounding rhythm in “Yalla Yalla” could be a cross between 1960s mainstream rock and late 1970s punk; and the singing is direct, raw, the words briskly delivered: “No R and R in Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi, Dubai. I want my boots on, my battle rattle, when it’s my time to die.” The song has a hypnotic pace—it’s like watching the approach of a dangerous animal. Something falls from the sky, and there is a demanding, howling chorus, sung in a hoarsely eloquent voice, with light fast beats in “Show Me How This Thing Works,” a song that I’ve been told has something to do with mathematics. The composition “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me” is wry, laidback, reminding me of The Eagles, while “We All Shine a Light,” with its references to the eastern world and indication of the multiculturalism of modern times, has a rhythm that both Joe Strummer and Chuck Berry would recognize. “Hand Me My Inhaler,” an odd song of separation, is a short song, like many here; and “Friends” is a country ballad with funny lyrics: “Well, I’d never sleep with your ex-girlfriend even if she starts to flirt with me again” and “I’ve got the dirt on you and you’ve got plenty on me too, so I pray we stay together all our days.”
“I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right” has more melody and mystique, more musical magic, than most of the songs that precede it; and yet it shares a sensibility with the other songs—that of a man reckless, self-indulgent, someone careening from one thing to another. “Time Machine,” recalling a punk music riot, creates an onslaught of sound but I’d like to hear more nuance; and “Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is),” with its history-to-the-present topicality and all its dissatisfactions, is marked by robust guitar distortion. “Darling One” is a song of relative quiet and intimacy. The last song, “Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey,” is fast-paced, and it does not console though it offers connection as it summarizes much that has gone wrong in the contemporary world. Finally, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey is not a bad album, though I did not find myself thinking it was a particularly good one—and yet, it’s fun: it’s rock and roll—exemplifying all the anger and angst, and perverse pleasure and pounding rhythm, that suggests.
Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, Offscreen.com, Option, PopMatters.com, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. He has written fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, and criticism. Daniel Garrett’s web log at Blogger.com, focused on culture and society, is called “City and Country, Boy and Man.” His e-mail address is D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com