The initial criticism of Cracker was that it was too mainstream, devoid of the quirks that made leader David Lowery’s first group, Camper Van Beethoven, so likable.
Maybe, but as mainstream rock goes,Cracker is pretty out-there.
The Virgin Records band, at the Roxy to promote “Kerosene Hat,” its second record, works in the same droll vein as its predecessor. Camper Van may have had exotica in its repertoire like “ZZ Top Goes to Egypt,” and countrified cover versions of Circle Jerks anthems, but at its heart it was a pop band, rolling out Lowery’s skewed hooks to the delight of his collegiate followers.
Cracker’s subject matter echoes Camper’s, with songs like “Hi-Desert Meth Lab” and Lowery’s endless, sore-throated ruminations on the sad state of down-home Americana. But Cracker plays straight country-rock not altogether unlike the Eagles.
With its twanging neo-country harmonies, the band rocks harder than its laid-back forefathers. Songs like “Low” and “Teen Angst” are tougher than any SoCal ’70s drivel. And new drummer, former Pixie Dave Lovering, has more punch and moxie than any musicians from that genre. Cracker’s forward motion saves them on that level.
But the colorings provided by guest violinist Morgan Fichter were an illustration of how a little more harmonic variation couldn’t hurt. When Cracker did Camper Van’s epochal anthem, “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” the daffy looseness of the old version would have been welcome. But as Cracker develops, it seems likely that more mayhem will gradually see its way into the mix.