Cracker snuck briefly onto the music scene with this 1993 release of "Kerosene Hat." Most people don't remember this album or the band for that matter. But, alas, it's got an alphabetically organized slot in my CD collection. Why you ask? Well, there are two specific reasons. "Low" and "Get Off This." And yes, if you've been anywhere around the music scene in the past six years, you should have heard these tunes at one time or another. Cracker puts together an interesting mix of a bluesy and rock sound. It works together well to produce this, the band's second and most successful album to date.
The two main players in Cracker are lead singer and guitar guru David Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman. This gold selling record hinted that Cracker may have some things to say to the mainstream, but alas this was not destiny. Following the release of this album, the band contributed tracks to movies like the ill-fated black comedy "The Cable Guy," "Speed," "Clueless," and "Empire Records" and the awesome Led Zeppelin tribute album entitled "Encomium." But, the shining moment for Cracker's career came in the form of a three lettered title..."Low." Needless to say, I love that track and a few others, but it's necessary to examine the entire album for content, clarity, and entertainment value before I can recommend or attack the album. Sit back and relax. Stay a while.
This is a very catchy song. In fact, I love it! Like the title, this song is methodical and not at all danceable. Rather, it's fun and very boldly refers to drugs. In fact, that's what this song is about the entire time. Honestly, it was everywhere on the radio about six or so years ago. Don't remember it? What's wrong with you! Lowery's voice is almost sad, but there is some real talent exhibited here. The lyrics are great, too. No complaints here! Oh, and here's a few lines to jump start your memory about these guys:
A million poppies gonna make me sleep.
Just one rose and knows your name
The fruit is rusting on the vine
The fruit is calling from the trees
2. MOVIE STAR
Great guitar riffs start this song out on the right track. It sounds very much like a combination between good ol' boy rock and some sort of progressive rock or Brit pop. Obviously, it's interesting and fun and worthy of a listen. Sure it didn't get as much press as the song that proceeds it and follows it, but quite honestly it could have. "Movie Star" is funny. It's also very smart and speaks to the ignorance of people and the stupidity of celebrity. It's an ironic topic for a band that was on such a path to become famous. Here are three lines to illustrate my point:
Well the movie star, well she crashed her car.
But everyone said she was beautiful even without her head.
Everyone said she was dangerous.
3. GET OFF THIS
Let me say this. I love the southern rock in the beginning. I love the groovy guitars and Lowery's poppy yet interesting voice. He's got great emotion and obviously enough talent to pull off a fun party song like this. To be quite honest, this was the first song I ever heard from Cracker. Maybe it's not the best, but it's still fun and deserves a listen. "Get Off This" really makes me want to jump out of my seat and move. There aren't many songs that can accomplish that feat. You all should have heard it at one point in time, too. What? You don't think so? Check out the lyrics below...
Get off this
Get on with it
If you wanna change the world
shut your mouth and start this minute
4. KEROSENE HAT
This is very much a wanna be blues song. It's slow, melodic and guitar driven from the beginning. Cracker shows great control with their music in this song. Maybe it proves that they don't have to be just a fun band. And considering the fact that this song is also titled the same as the album, it's important to note that the band has done a good job here. The lyrics are poetically descriptive. The guitars echo of the master Eric Clapton at times. Great I tell 'ya! Here's a few of those lyrics:
Here come old Kerosene Hat
with his ear flaps waxed
a courting' his girl
come clattering in here
on your old cloven skates
with that devilish spoon
5. TAKE ME DOWN TO THE INFIRMARY
We have some serious southern rock here. It's almost alarming to this hard rock fan to hear the slide guitars and country beats coupled with Lowery's voice singing the lyrics to such an odd song. Believe me, it's interesting. If you've got this album, just block out the lyrics and you hear a southern rock song. Period. I becomes interesting only with the addition of Lowery's progressive voice. His voice is very much in contrast to the tone of the rest of the song but somehow it all works well together. Go figure. It's sad, depressing, and very quirky.
I know the whiskey won't soothe my soul
and the morphine won't heal my heart
but if you take me down to the infirmary
I won't have to sleep or drink alone.
Great "real" rock guitars here. They are the ones that are missed from rock from the seventies. It's a pretty good song that sounds somewhat like I could imagine the Rolling Stones sounding at times. In fact, I can just about imagine Mick Jagger's voice in the place of Lowrey's. The lyrics refer repeatedly to things of long ago, too. Interesting, but truly not as much so as some of Cracker's other offerings. If you're going to listen to this album as a whole, it's worth your few minutes of time.
Like general Jackson's arm
it's buried on some farm
While the fever
pushes words from his lips
7. SWEET POTATO
Another funky southern rock song that sounds like a mix between bits of Lynyrd Skynyrd and brit pop. Yes, they do mix. Somehow, Cracker seems to make it happen with seamless ease. In fact, this song is most similar to "Get Off This" from this album. The guitar work is great...there's a sound there that you don't hear often in music today, especially from bands that could be called pop or rock or even alternative. Cracker is definitely different. It's a good ol' rock song...
So be my sweet potato,
I'll be your honey lamb,
give me some black tupelo,
I been caught again.
8. SICK OF GOODBYES
More alternative southern rock here. Actually this song doesn't appeal to me much. It's a bit to slow and uninteresting for me to say the least. There are more Stones sounds here. It seems as though Cracker may be trying to emulate the rock pioneers at times including during this song. Blah. Even the lyrics are a bit blah.
When night comes crawling
in on a horse.
Soaking up my dreams
through the pores.
9. I WANT EVERYTHING
The thing that strikes me most about this song is the opening. The guitars again sound very country rock. This isn't a bad thing, believe me! It's very refreshing in comparison to some of the crap that was released in 1993. It's quirky and Lowery's voice is just so much different than you expect from a band that sounds like Cracker. I can imagine Tom Petty on this one. Actually, I enjoy this tune. It's worthy of a listen or two. Even though you haven't ever heard of it I suggest you listen. He's the beginning lines...my favorite of this song by far...
I am standing in your corridor
I wonder what I am waiting for
The leaves are drifting out to see
I am waiting for you desperately
10. LONESOME JOHNNY BLUES
I don't like this. I don't care that it's supposed to be a funny sort of song. When this track comes on I feel like breaking out with a line dance or a hoe down. It's rotten. But, I realize that somebody out there may find some redeeming qualities in it. JUST NOT MY STYLE. I hate the beat, the lyrics, the voice, the guitars. YUCK. I'm not even going to bother you with the lyrics. It's not worth it.
11. LET'S GO FOR A RIDE
It's fortunate that Cracker followed that last track up with a rock song. The CD would have been immediately tossed out of the window had it not been for this song. The beat is great and sounds a bit like a Cars song from the 1980's. But, alas, it's Cracker. This is a great song. It's fast, furious, and fun. Don't miss out! There are still the southern rock influences, but I love it nonetheless. Again, there are hints of "Get Off This," but who am I to complain?! GREAT!
So, drive real fast through the underpass
And if we die or if we crash.
Well I'd be flattered to
be buried right next to you.
12. THE LOSER
This is a tune apparently about gambling. Yup, I think blackjack to be exact. It's kind of slow for my taste, but Lowery continues to be interesting here. The guitars are slow and methodical and very much in the same vein as other blues songs. Worth a listen, but by no means the best track on the album.
Last fair deal in the country,
Sweet Suzie, last fair deal in the town
Put your gold money where your love is baby,
Before I let my deal go down
15. HI-DESERT BIKER METH LAB
With the pseudo-mechanical sounds of a factory of sorts, this is an obviously different song than others on this album. There are sound samples, etc...not really a song, instead it's an experiment in noise.
69. EUROTRASH GIRL
This song was actually later released as a single. It's very much another southern rock song with guitars and drums to match. This song speaks of a search around the world for a "Eurotrash Girl." Funny sense of humor, this track should have been in the place of "Lonesome Johnny Blues." Here's a quick sample...
Well I've been up to Paris
and I've slept in a park.
Went down to Barcelona
someone broke in my car
And I'll search the world over
for my angel in black.
Yeah, I'll search the world over
for a Eurotrash Girl.
88. I RIDE MY BIKE
A good ol' rock and roll song. I love the guitars and the driving drums. There are all the makings of a real rock song here. And, I like that factor to say the very least. This is one of the best on the album, and definitely is more interesting than some of the other tracks in the "regular" part of the album. Although, it's not nearly as interesting lyrically as some of the other tracks, hence it's "hidden" position. Here's what the song says:
And I comb my hair
And I wear a dress
I wear it all around
just to take me back to you
Additionally, there is a little suprise hidden track on number 69 entited "Eurotrash Girl." Track 88 is known as "I Ride My Bike." Finally, there is another hidden track at number 99 that's actually the demo recording for "Kerosene Hat."
This isn't a five star album. There are problems and inconsistencies as I've noted above. Although, if you're at the local used CD store and see this one for $5 it's definitely worth it if just for the two most popular tracks on the album. I hate to sound like a Lemming, but those two tracks ("Low" and "Get Off This") could definitely be considered the best ones of all. There are other standouts on the album including "Movie Star" and "Let's Go For a Ride." "Kerosene Hat" is a very diverse album. Had it gotten more exposure initially more songs would have been featured on radio stations everywhere.
My suggestion is to listen to this. If you don't like bluesy southern rock, this album isn't for you. If you don't like alternative music, this album isn't for you. Cracker has assembled an interesting, artistic album unlike anything you've ever heard. For this reason, I'm giving them a well-earned four stars.