Cracker – The Golden Age

3 out of 5

Produced by: Dennis Herring

Label: Virgin

It must be hard to maintain one’s cynical slackerhood when on the verge of stardom.

Such is the conundrum for David Lowery and the Cracker crew on Golden Age, the follow up to Kerosene Hat, which scored hits with the alternative crowd with Low and Get Off This.  The thing is, Hat was something of a sneaky success, advancing the group’s folk- and country-tinged rock sound but maintaining Lowery’s penchant Cali snide and random wit; it’s a group adopting a particular sound that matched its vibe.

But now you’re a buzz bin success (that’s… probably a dated MTV term, kids, sorry), and other groups are getting younger, louder, and brattier.  So Golden Age became an identity crisis: the aggressive snarls of opener ‘I Hate My Generation’ vs. the slide guitar sarcasm of the title track.  This dichotomy occurs throughout the album, swinging back and forth from louder attempts to more subdued ones.  The ol’ Cracker band is staffed with talented songsmiths, and Dennis Herring is at the board to give things a warm, full sound, so song for song there’s plenty of good work here, but the listening experience on the whole is too bi-polar to build up much steam, giving the album a somewhat generic gloss overall.

That’s okay, we didn’t necessarily need a hard rock version of Cracker, and some of the lyrical themes of the album’s better tracks have deeper variations on the somber follow up, Gentleman’s Blues.