Cracker has always used a lot of geography in their songs. Their lyrics often contain quaint places from the two chief songwriters’ pasts. Berkeley To Bakersfield makes a lot of sense because of this. The characters created by the band have always been victims of their environments and that is just exaggerated on their new, ambitious double album.
The Berkeley disc is filled with the same rocking pop songs that sold the band tons of albums in the 90s. It is the closest they have come to their Cracker / Kerosene Hat sound since that time. Just take a listen to the backing vocals on “March of the Billionaires” and you’ll see the connection to early songs like “I See The Light.” The guitar is dialed up and David Lowery pens catchy songs about the punks and weirdoes from his past. While there is some angst here, like on “You Got Yourself Into This” there is also plenty of sentiment to match like on a couple of the album’s stronger songs, “Beautiful” and “Waited My Whole Life.”
The Bakersfield disc explores Cracker’s undeniable country side. The lovable losers from songs like “Mr. Wrong” and “How Can I Live Without You?” would fit right in on this disc, especially alongside “King of Bakersfield.” Johnny Hickman gets vocal duties on a couple songs on this side of the record with a retelling of “San Bernardino Boy” and a nice summation of the disc with “California Country Boy.” Banjo accompanies some of the songs and Hickman’s twangy tone is pushed to the forefront to make Bakersfield a completely different album than Berkeley. Lowery’s “Almond Grove” may be the best song of the entire bunch with some whining steel guitar and a level of emotion not found on the more rocking disc.
The two discs are two completely separate thoughts musically but lyrically it somehow ties together nicely. Fans will love hearing the group fully dive into each side of their split personality. Cracker’s first new record in 5 years doesn’t disappoint, in quality or quantity.
Key Tracks: “Almond Grove” “Beautiful” “Waited My Whole Life” “King of Bakersfield”