Release Date: Dec 9, 2014
Record label: 429 Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, American Trad Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
Many gawped and some were momentarily dazzled when Kim Kardashian tried to break the internet with her shiny buttocks, but most of us were only temporarily transfixed. These are troubled times, even if you are a celebrity with a flashy bottom or a billionaire with a Lamborghini, and we are probably to blame for most of our misfortunes. Perhaps someone should just flick the “off” switch to avoid us all sinking to the level of the lowest common denominator.
Though he was born in Texas, at heart David Lowery has long been a true Californian, and his musings on life in the Golden State have often dotted his albums with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Camper Van Beethoven even recorded a pair of concept albums about California, 2013's La Costa Perdida (about the northern part of the state) and 2014's El Camino Real (focusing on Southern California), and apparently Lowery had enough ideas about the West Coast left over for Cracker to try something quite similar. Released in 2014, Berkeley to Bakersfield is a two-disc set that offers a pair of distinct perspectives on this band's musical approach and the mythos of California life.
CrackerBerkeley to Bakersfield(429)Rating: 3. 5 out of 5 stars Whatever you may think of David Lowery, he’s a hard worker who has been on a prolific roll as of late; first with two solid if inconsistent albums within 18 months with a resuscitated Camper Van Beethoven and now a double disc from the on-again/off-again Cracker. This latest pays tribute to the sounds and most pointedly the vibe, of the titular California cities that forged Lowery’s approach.
It’s a bold statement to release a double CD set in these digital days of one-shot downloads. It takes major cojones to make that two-disc offering a concept album. Cracker’s Berkeley To Bakersfield (released early last month via 429 Records) reflects upon the band’s 23-year career by celebrating its California roots in 18 fresh-sounding tracks.
The 73 minutes of music on Cracker’s new double album would fit comfortably on a single disc, but “Berkeley to Bakersfield” is an intentional act of musical centrifuge that separates the band’s rock and country elements into separate containers. The first, “Berkeley,” mates various shades of guitar rock (and, on lead-off track “Torches and Pitchforks,” a bit of coffeehouse folk) to recurring moments of economic populism and songs replete with references to that titular city. The “Bakersfield” disc trades guitar crunch for pedal steel whine, serving up straight shuffles, rowdy country-rock, and mournful balladry as it shifts its lyrical focus southward.