Cracker w/ Chrash
The Mill — Tuesday, June 9 at 8 p.m.
Cracker, a genre-bending band that blends rock, punk and country, will perform tonight at The Mill.
They remain best known for their ’90s hits “Low,” “Get Off This” and “EuroTrash Girl” — songs that were notable for remaining likeable in spite of radio stations’ tendency to overplay…everything. Like many other bands that formed in the ’90s, Cracker fell into the cracks caused by hipster disdain for the once admired. Nonetheless, the band has continued creating, recording and performing music over the past decades.
Their tenth and most recent album, Berkeley to Bakersfield, received solid praise from critics. The record, a two-disc release, is the first album featuring the group’s founding members in over 20 years and provides an homage to California that rivals Sufjan Stevens’ tributes to Illinois and Michigan.
The album’s doubled format allows for punk and country — which the band tends to fuse — to emerge as distinct elements. Although this format occasionally betokens a gimmick, Cracker allows this strategy to work to its advantage.
Berkeley deftly integrates the punk style into the album’s themes, tying in the local liberal tradition of political protests with the confrontational sounds developed in the 1970s. Bakersfield, on the other hand, roots itself in a country-tinged Americana sound, using its tonal vibes to suggest the luxuries of the California inland countrysides.
This particular fusion makes Iowa City, which often understands itself as a radically progressive space in the heartland, an apt stop on Cracker’s tour. Overall, the two discs provide songs that stand happily indifferent to contemporary trends in American music.
Although not experimental or wildly innovative, the songs are written with a maturity, authenticity and confidence consistent with the group’s 24-year career. On first listen, Cracker’s awareness of the history of American music allows their songs to attain an air of familiarity — but the enriched form of familiarity, rather than pop music’s emphasis on rewriting the same tune over and over again. Instead of covers of its favorite music, Cracker mines the musical traditions of its native state to provide a sonic recreation of California.
Those intrigued by Cracker’s latest work will be gratified by the band’s balance of new material with the old. So far in the tour, their live sets have focused on 10 of the album’s 18 tracks. “El Commandante” and “El Cerrito” are inspired live staples that promise dynamic play, while the radio singles “Waited My Whole Life” and “King of Bakersfield,” will fit the dimly lit setting of The Mill. Lovers of Cracker’s early work have reason for excitement, as the band seems happy to reward long-term fans with their most beloved favorites.
Tonight’s show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 in advance or $22 at the door.