Cracker – Berkeley To Bakersfield

There are few acts that could pull off a record about all of California....
Cracker : Berkeley To Bakersfield
8.1 429

Cracker : Berkeley To BakersfieldCracker have always been relatively hard to pin down, going from early nineties alt-rock success to a decidedly more country style, even jam. They are definitely American, despite one of their biggest hits being “Euro-Trash Girl” (QRO video – to be fair, it’s told from the point of view of a Yank backpacker). With double album Berkeley To Bakersfield, the group lays claim to their home state of California, both north and south, if a little heavy-handed at times.

With nine songs on each disc, B2B is broken out into ‘Berkeley’ and ‘Bakersfield’ sides. ‘Berkeley’ has a Bay Area fry going on in pieces like the wry “El Comandante” and fun kiss-off “You Got Yourself Into This”, while “March of the Billionaires” is one of many songs on to take up the Occupy/99% banner maybe a bit too obviously (it’s preceded by choral folk opener “Torches and Pitchforks”, and singer/guitarist David Lowery – QRO interview – isn’t going after Frankenstein…).

The flip side to the anti-elitism on B2B is the extolling of the working class, in this case working class California. The ‘Berkeley’ side pays tribute to “El Cerrito” (and knocks “Life In the Big City”), but it is the country ‘Bakersfield’ disc that particularly goes for it with “California Country Boy”, “King of Bakersfield”, and others. The ‘Bakersfield’ half lets Lowery and guitarist/singer Johnny Hickman (QRO interview) indulge in their backwoods anti-hero on pieces like those and “The San Bernardino Boy”, but there’s also some sweet country loss in “Almond Grove” and “When You Come Down”.

Berkeley To Bakersfield ends with a country rendition of “Where Have Those Days Gone” from 2006’s Greenland, and the record is in many ways an elegy to the California of Hickman & Lowery’s youth, before gentrification and the ever-widening income gap. The messages sometimes get laid on a little thick, not as much irony as you might hope for from Cracker, but there are few acts that could pull off a record about all of California.

Cracker – King of Bakersfield

Album Reviews