June 6th marked the release of Cracker's first studio album since Countrysides and Forever. For most fans this was a heavily anticipated release - the band had been through a lot of ups and downs since Forever. How these events would be reflected in the album was uncertain.
So here goes my review...
The starting song "Something that you ain't got" was a song I heard live when they played their acoustic set. Its a beautiful song, although not written by Cracker, it is all Cracker. A nice opener to the album.
"Maggie" - a sort of love song, starts out with an overdriven chord riff and moves into a very "Forever" sounding groove. Great stuff, but again, Cracker all over.
Things then move into higher gear a little.
"Where have those good days gone" is a driving road trip song that re-tells a journey up the coast and encounters along the way.
"Fluffy lucy" slows the pace down and at first I really didn't care for the song I thought it was just too, well, fluffy. The first two verses are kind of cute, but it kills the momentum of the record. The chorus is cute, but its not until the bridge kicks in with a little more urgency that the full power of the song is revealed, and the tone moves to a more minor feel.
So far, solid Cracker, but no great surprises.
Next comes "Riverside".
Starts off with acoustic strumming, builds with a bass drum and then some dirty electric chords. But you know that mayhem is about to be unleashed. After about 1 minute in your suspicion is realized. This song feels a lot like "I ride my bike" - its a relentless, powerful tune. Almost stoner rock. The production is awesome, while the track is chaotic, the acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards and electric guitar are always very clear. At the end of the track you feel exhausted, but there is no respite....
..."Gimme one more chance" flows straight in with the dirtiest guitar riff on the record. This song feels like part 2 of Riverside. It has a strong jam band feel with the guitar riff, piano riff exactly the mimicing the chorus line. The squealing pinch harmonics are something you don't hear on Cracker records much, but they emphasize the urgency of the song.
After that you need a rest, and this is brought to you by "I'm so glad she ain't never coming back" which takes us back to the hapless character the crops up throughout Cracker records.
Back to the serious stuff.
If you haven't listened to the album using headphones, put them on now! "Sidi Ifni" features some awesome guitar work in the intro which uses a perfectly timed stereo delay.
The song is a masterpiece. Truly. This single song must make the album. Talking about the life of some Brits living in the last days of the British empire in Morroco. At the end of the song, I was left speechless.
"I need better friends" Recounts more lost love and road trips along the coast. An easy going song which frankly made me think of Tom Petty.
"Minotaur" falls into the same group as Riverside and Gimme one more chance - driving atmospheric rock.
At track 11, "Night Falls" - reinforces the pattern of the album - hard - soft - hard. This song must have been in a close contender for the last song of the record. With its soaring strings, and simple piano chords, its a great song. If anything, its a little long.
"Better times are coming are way" is a unique song with its reggae beat, reverb laden guitar and sound effects. I might be wrong, but is the song recounting a meeting with record execs?
"Everybody gets one for free" - I heard this one live as well, its the life story of the band over the past few years. But now they're back on the block with their freedom rock. The song covers all the bases including a small political jab "I've got a new American entry to the freedom hater's dance"
Finally we end on "darling we're out of time". A sad goodbye song, that rounds out the record beautifully.
So I'm a totally biased, but I give this record 9.5/10. It reveals a band that is pushing limits, not just recycling. Its a band that writes song with emotion that reflect real emotion. This isn't corporate rock. Great work.