Cracker – Greenland

4 out of 5

Label: Cooking Vinyl

Produced by: David Lowery, John Morand, Mark Linkous

Cracker – as fronted by David Lowery – became old men fairly quickly in the spotlight spin cycle of pop music.  After leveraging the feel good vibes of Camper Van Beethoven into the more rock-oriented snark of their debut, Cracker’s Kerosene Hat capitalized on alternative crunch while somewhat deriding it; Golden Age found the band struggling between wanting to move on and wanting to maintain those glory days.  That album’s less glowing reception resulted in the dour Gentleman’s Blues, and then, further down the path of recovery – post a CVB reformation – Cracker seemed suddenly resigned to their post-stardom status, sounding quite comfortable in their skin (and ready to be done with major labels) on Forever.  The crisis was over; Lowery and crew relaxed and released some very down-home fan-oriented albums: Countrysides and a team-up with Leftover Salmon.

The Cracker of Greenland is somewhat of a putting the pieces back together; picking up the ol’ guitar again.  It maintain the in-it-for-themselves pleasure of the prior two releases, but bravely leaps back into rock and roll, in a much more direct and satisfying way than could be mustered during their increasingly jaded Virgin years.  And though genre experimentation has never been fully out of their wheelhouse, Greenland fully embraces it: the dusky Sidi ifni; the Clash stomp of Better Times Are Coming Our Way; these are organic expressions instead of coming across as the singular weird track.  At the same time, there are remnants of a group figuring out where their sound fits in a post-alternative, digital music world: some songs fall back on generic love lyrics and non-committal fade-outs; the sequencing reflects by hiccupping between emotional high-points like Maggie and Minotaur and select cuts that don’t seem to fit squarely on the disc.  But the ratio of the former well outnumbers the latter, and even the habitual self-referential track (Everybody Gets One For Free) is a less eye-rolly than other album’s versions.

Greenland, at a first pass, lacks a standout single or cohesive feel.  But the heart is there in spades, and repeat listens suggest that feeling is one of a band redefining itself, almost 15 years on, emerging stronger and bolder than nigh ever before.