CD Review of Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey by Cracker
Cracker: Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey
Recommended if you like
The Clash, Patti Smith Group, X
Label
429 Records
Cracker:
Sunrise in the
Land of Milk and Honey

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

A
lthough they always appeared somewhat askew, Cracker managed to mix a roots rock sensibility with the irreverence and insurgency that helped fuel punk and new wave. Longtime stalwart, singer and guitarist David Lowery took his apprenticeship early on via the deliberately off-kilter combo, Camper Van Beethoven (who could forget their immortal anthem "Take the Skinheads Bowling?"), but it wasn’t until he joined forces with guitarist Johnny Hickman and bassist Davey Faragher that he managed to etch Cracker’s own indelible imprint.

From the early ‘90s on, Cracker carved out an enviable reputation that grew ever stronger through a series of highly acclaimed offerings – their self titled debut in 1992, its follow-up Kerosene Hat and then Golden Age four years later. Fortunately, various shifts in personnel did little to deter their progress, and the albums they’ve offered in the new millennium – Gentleman’s Blues, Forever, Countrysides and Greenland in particular – have helped to further affirm their alt-rock credo.

Still, it’s been some time since Cracker made their presence felt, and in the four years since their last studio set, they’ve almost seemed to slip from view. So it’s with some relief that the band has been able to shore up their stance and come back with what may well be their toughest, most tenacious effort yet. While its title might offer a glimmer of wide-eyed optimism, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey is driven by an undercurrent of agitation and uncertainty that snarls and bristles at practically every turn. The songs are dominated by rousing, rambunctious melodies, from the opening barrage and battle cry of "Yalla Yalla (Let’s Go)," to the brash spark and surge of "Show Me How This Thing Works," "We All Share a Light," "Time Machine" and the raging title track. And while its fiery temperament twists these tunes into anthems of disillusionment and despair, they’re braced with a relentless resolve that remains undeterred. "Buy a little cabin in the Adirondacks / Baby they’ll never find us," Lowery wails on the brooding "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me," a song plagued by pessimism but still just as beautiful.

In fact, it’s to Lowery and company’s credit that even in the midst of such unhinged ferocity, they manage to find such an unlikely mix of sentiment and cynicism. Take, for example, this sprawling couplet found in "Friends":

"Now when you’re on a date and you finally bring that girl home,
Put on some Captain Beefheart on the stereo and you disconnect the phone.
I’ll show up drunk and raving, and then I’ll pass out on the spot
‘Cause that’s the kind of friend that you’ve got."

That’s a questionable proposition, but it shows the band’s knack for stirring their hubris with humor. Here’s ample proof that Cracker’s still as salty as ever.

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