Cracker – Garage D’Or (2-disc edition)

4 out of 5

Label: Virgin

Produced by: Various

Gathering singles up through their Gentleman’s Blues album, Garage D’Or both accomplishes the general ‘greatest hits’ qualifier – giving the kids the nostalgia they crave – and also effectively shows the initial transition the band went through from Cali-bred Americana rockers to smirking grungers, then emerging into something a bit more grounded and nuanced (…which would later give way to further stylistic shifts, but that’s as far as we were at this point.).  Sequencing the tracks chronologically thus tells a bit of a story… but frankly doesn’t necessarily make for the best listening experience, as the poppy zip of earlier singles from their debut and Kerosene Hat gets halted by Euro-Trash girl’s eight minute runtime – though don’t get me wrong, I love the song – and the Johnny Hickman-led Flamin’ Groovies cover Shake Some Action, from the Clueless soundtrack, before the slightly more wide-eyed Golden Age tracks and folksy Blues’ selection put a rather definitive halt on the album’s flow.  The new tracks have little room to make impact at that point.

This is coming from an avowed, own-all-their-albums Cracker fan: the connective tissue between all of these songs is what makes Cracker discs worthwhile experiences.  Filtering it down to the singles makes it feel rather herky-jerky; I would argue that the group really hasn’t been single-y since Kerosene Hat, hence the disc losing momentum after that point.  (Euro-Trash Girl notwithstanding – but that was a bonus track on Hat, so we’ll pretend like the statement still works.)  And to be trebly clear – this is not a statement about the songs, which are all quality picks; its about how the listening experience is affected by the chosen sequencing.

The last three tracks are good-not-great territory, somewhat standard Cracker fare, though Eyes of Mary starts out with a sort of cheesy beat and then builds it on really well to end up being a pretty rewarding song.

So Garage D’Or: the single disc version is, y’know, s’alright.

Bonus disc to the rescue.

Culled from alternate takes, live cuts, and demos, D’Or’s second disc is worth the price of two by itself:

The fantastic version of I Want Out Of The Circus shows how much fun this group can be live, and how polished and yet professionally loose their act is; the unreleased Hollywood Cemetery would’ve been a great addition to Gentleman’s Blues, so it’s awesome to have it rescued here; and the Fleetwood Mac cover is too perfect – such a good synchronicity of styles.  Hunt down that CVB Tusk album if you don’t have it.  What’s weird is how that connective element that was missing from Disc 1 is somehow present here, even though these are all bits and bobs.  Which suggests that Cracker’s greatest hits – even given how solid and catchy each of their singles are – might be all those other moments in between.

So if you’re not a collector and you already have your Cracker hits on the albums or as singles, the one disc Garage D’Or might not offer much new.  But collector or not, if you like Cracker enough to check out their non-Kerosene Hat material and you spot the two disc edition of this, it’s definitely worth your time and bucks to shine a spotlight on those excellent ‘off’ moments.