5.05.2009

Music Review: Cracker's Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey

by Rick Rockwell

Awesome! Cracker’s new release Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey is an adrenaline shot to the heart. What more could one ask of a rock 'n roll record but to instill a sense of revival.

Certainly, the title of the album puts a finger immediately on that pulse. However, anyone who has listened to any of Cracker’s previous nine studio albums knows this band comes with a skeptical squint and a satirical world view. So read the title as a commentary on the fact the world hasn’t changed much despite the declarations that we supposedly live in a time of hope.

The punk attitude Cracker has always had at its foundation bubbles up to the surface on this release. Starting with the first track, “Yalla Yalla (Let’s Go),” Cracker sounds like the Ramones, if only the Ramones had Ph.Ds. The song is a whip-smart story about the lecherous and hilarious reminiscences of an Iraq War veteran recounting stories of his ex-girlfriends. More Ramones influences spill forth on the equally hilarious “Hand Me My Inhaler.”

But the best punk song on this new release is “Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is),” which gives a big middle finger to the topsider and khaki crowd. The song is written from the point of view of poor Latinos who are sick of the WASP hierarchy. On top of smoldering beats, singer/guitarist David Lowery protests: “We live like serfs / in this new feudal land / We pay the bills and fight the wars.”

Unafraid to take the intellectual high road, Cracker combines with punk icon John Doe (formerly of X) to good effect on “We Will Shine a Light,” a song about democratizing Pakistan and fighting al Qaeda.

Another great guest shot on Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey comes from Patterson Hood, the founder of the Drive-by Truckers. On “Friends,” Hood and Lowery sing a boozy country-soaked barroom duet that name checks and references Captain Beefheart.* What other band would have the guts to try that in an alt-country song?

One of the weaker songs, “Turn On Tune In Drop Out With Me,” the song the band has offered as the first single on the album, still manages to pack a lyrical dystopian punch. However, the song sounds like a derivative knock off of Everclear’s “I Will Buy You a New Life.”

But it is hard to mar the powerful impact of Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, which is easily Cracker’s best release since The Golden Age (1996). And if there’s any doubt of that assessment, just cue up “I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right” about midway through this great record. The song packs a sonic punch with the best guitar solos from Lowery and lead guitarist Johnny Hickman on a record filled with gritty guitar workouts. That song alone will make you forget the crazy headlines of our times which the band is inveighing against for most of this release. And that’s the real enjoyment of soaking in the energizing musical rays of Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey.

*Captain Beefheart is the stage name of Don Van Vliet.

(The promotional photo of Cracker is by Jason Thrasher and is provided by Savoy/429 Records. Cracker will play St. Louis, MO on May 15, the next date on the band's tour of the U.S. To see the video for "Yalla Yalla (Let's Go)" from Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, please check below.)
















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