Cracker – Kerosene Hat

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I once read some Cracker promotional material that boasted that they were the only band to have ever opened for both the Grateful Dead and the Ramones. While I can’t see either audience easily or fully embracing Cracker, those line-ups make a lot of sense to me. Cracker definitely added doses of Americana, country, and blues to their punk and indie leanings, and pulled it off expertly. Cracker in fact covers a Jerry Garcia solo song on this album, about which I have not much to say. I am not aware of any Ramones covers by the band, but I would have liked to have heard one.

What I Think of This Album

This album contains Cracker’s biggest hit, and was also their best seller. Both those things surprise me a bit. “Low” is okay, but I wouldn’t place it in the top 20 Cracker songs, or maybe even 50. I suppose its popularity rests in part on the mistaken interpretation of the lyric “Being with you, girl / Like being low / Hey, hey, hey / Like being stone” (and not “stoned”). Also Kerosene Hat not as immediate than the debut, with an arid, contemplative feel that leavens the brash giddiness of Cracker. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of fun, tuneful tracks.

“Movie Star” is one that I definitely like more than “Low,” for example, with its headache drums (the bass drum is way out front in the mix, in a good way), a tidy solo from Johnny Hickman, a great vocal from David Lowery, and bizarre lyrics like “Well, the Chief of Police / Kept the crime off the streets / Deep in his heart, we all knew he felt differently / We all knew he was an anarchist.” Bassist Davey Faragher does a great job on the manifesto “Get Off This,” which relies on a seldom-seen talkbox, and outright shines on groove-heavy “Sweet Potato” (which may or may not be a play on Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”) – he also plays a neat, slippery riff towards the end of “Movie Star.” Lowery embraces pop on the sweet “Sick of Goodbyes” – co-written with and later recorded by Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) – which has some nice gospel-flavored vocals in it. And he gets high lonesome on the blue “I Want Everything,” on which somebody does a nice job with the harmony vocal. Speaking of blue, Hickman turns in a nimble performance on the bouncy and clever “Lonesome Johnny Blues.” “Nostalgia” is another pop-oriented piece with pleasantly distorted guitar sounds; this one contains a pause-inducing reference to maimed Confederate leader Stonewall Jackson (“Like General Jackson’s arm / It’s buried on some farm”).

As befits an album from the ‘90s, there are three hidden tracks. Number 69 (natch) is favorite “Euro Trash Girl,” a riotous travelogue full of misadventure and a questionable stepmom. The slower tracks weigh heavily on Kerosene Hat, though. The Garcia cover stretches for over six minutes, and the somber title track is almost as long (though it is worth the investment). The similarly slow “Take Me Down to the Infirmary” maybe shouldn’t have been slotted right after “Kerosene Hat,” though. Hidden track “I Ride My Bike” is not terribly interesting; the hidden demo of “Kerosene Hat” is no more than a curiosity (though I like the joke lyric “Here come ol’ Sorbet Head”). The best thing about noise experiment “Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab” is its title. One thing I will say about “Low” is that I adore the “junkie cosmonaut” lyric. If there isn’t a Cracker tribute band out there called The Junkie Cosmonauts, then this is not a world I want to live in. Sadly, this was Faragher’s last album with the band.

The Best Thing About This Album

Shoutout to bassist extraordinaire Davey Faragher.

Release Date

August, 1993

The Cover Art

It gets points for consistency in advancing the commercial product theme from Cracker, but the collage theme and the overwhelming gold/beige tones are not appealing. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑