Cracker - Greenland Review
by Patrick Muldowney
Listening to Greenland is like watching Randy Johnson pitch for the Yankees. Johnson can still convince fans on any given inning or even outing that he's the dominant pitcher he was ten years ago, but when you look at the overall picture it is easy to notice his good stuff is only around 25-50% of the time. When I was a freshman in college, almost 13 years ago, Cracker (self-titled) and Kerosene Hat were two of my favorite albums. I had David Lowery lyrics plastered on my dorm room walls from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. Later that year I discovered the Chapel Hill scene, then the Chicago scene, and as I left those for NYC and the Southwest in recent years, Cracker appeared less and less on my radar. When I first put in Greenland, I was convinced I had duped myself by forgetting such a wonderful band and such a wonderful songwriter. The first four songs provided a false security by being every bit the Cracker soul of the early 90s, then the Randy Johnson analogy became apt. Beyond the first third of the album, Greenland becomes an aimless amalgam of psychedelic, progressive, classic jam rock supported by over-inflated rambling lyrics. They resemble a local band heavily influenced by Pink Floyd that the yokels might love, but no label would touch.
Nowhere is this gross Floyd imitation more evident than "Sid Ifni", six minutes of torture, which even has the heartbeat effect during the instrumental parts. Any Floyd fan ever heard a heartbeat effect? Frank Funaro, in true psychedelic jam percussion, keeps a constant 4/4 on his ride cymbal, while Lowery and Johnny Hickman solo with their Gilmour clean reverb tone. The lyrics are likened to a cheap "Hotel California", with the "epiphany I would never leave this place alive." And the only savior for Lowery are "the alchemist words," like my only savior from reviewing this song is Merlin, but we're so close to the end of the world, he is now an infant who only goos and gahs when I request that he magically rid Greenland of "Sid Ifni". I was hoping Dire Straits would be the last band to reference alchemy, but Cracker pulled out the Trump card.
Back to vintage Cracker aka the first third of Greenland. "Something You Ain't Got" is the opening song about a stoned drunk who seems to believe his life is alright because he's never known any better. The barroom honkey tonk piano and the steel guitar make it a great southern rock song. "Maggie", which follows, would be one of my favorite songs on any Cracker album. Sounding like a soberer Shane MacGowan, Lowery sings this desperate plea: "You knew I was damaged so come on Maggie/ Don't break my heart." Coupled with the music, which has an up-tempo rhythm plus a bit of distortion on the guitar, "Maggie" is the simplest song on the disc structurally, but the second best effort hands down.
After the typical quirky Camper/Cracker track "Where Have Those Days Gone", which should meet the approval of any old or new fan, the strongest song on Greenland is "Fluffy Lucy". David Lowery shows his brilliance as a lyricist with the characters of Fluffy Lucy and Dirty Daisy, who have troubles they don't voice, "'Cause they'll think that you are jaded or you're spoiled." This is a somewhat simple point, but how many times do we judge someone's troubles based on the world's troubles, rather than understanding that problems are relative to the individual? "Fluffy Lucy" could have been a Replacements song off Don't Tell a Soul, especially once you hear the chorus, but unlike "Sid Ifni", which is disgusting in its influence, "Fluffy Lucy" is a beautiful tribute to narcissism.
Greenland is partial Cracker, with some other monster rearing its head the final 47 minutes. It makes for a rotten trick on the first listen. Owning part of this album is worthwhile, but the degree to which you enjoy Greenland will depend on your ability to excuse or ignore the rest.
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Cracker - Greenland
Label:Cooking Vinyl Records 2006
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