Volume 92, Issue 47

Thursday, November 26, 1998

permanent cast


Cracking open the cynical side of a blue gentleman

Photo by Howard Rosenberg
C'MON GUYS, YOU CAN'T ALL BE MR. BLACK. SOMEBODY'S GOT TO BE MR. PINK. Cracker gets all dressed up for a show tonight at The Embassy.

By Clare Elias

Gazette Staff

For Cracker's guitarist and vocalist Johnny Hickman, the creation of a musical group comes down to three basic elements – an ear for sound, a touch of spontaneity and just the right amount of cynical flare.

In the past eight years, this five-piece band has stripped away the bullshit of aspiring to be pop radio friendly musicians and instead, reached an honest core within their identity. Hickman reflects upon lead singer David Lowery's words of wisdom regarding their philosophical bent as a group.

"Lowery once said to me, 'you can't write what's in your brain, you have to write what's in your blood and this way you get what's really real.'"

Cracker dives into their inner recesses for musical composition and has garnered the reputation as a cuttingly candid and often sarcastic group. "We get the cynical tag now and again. There's definitely some cynicism here, but it's not the main engine in the vehicle of Cracker," Hickman admits.

Upon examining their lyrical style, a wit and flare for witty commentary surfaces, while the cynical stereotypes dissipate. "Some song titles, like 'I Hate my Generation,' are cynical, but lyrically they're the exact opposite. It's a smack in the face. I mean, are we becoming complacent here? We owe the world more than that," Hickman states, drawing attention to what he sees as a disaffected youth.

Cracker continues to take a strong approach to lyrics and Gentleman's Blues, released this past summer, is testament to their wry, yet passionately honest style. "A lot of songs on this record are about ourselves and about what we do. It almost became a concept album about being in a band and in the end it just felt very natural to write about things like that," Hickman explains.

Their lyrics are embedded in an uplifting rock with a harder-edge tilt creeping about underneath. "What we do is a little bit of country, a little bit avant-garde and a little punk rock. We sort of create each song as its own entity and this ends up sounding like Cracker," Hickman says.

The band's sound is derived from a need to be real and a desire to evoke a spur of the moment atmosphere, which is captured in their live performances. "Just the very sonics of a Cracker show varies from screaming rock songs to more subdued ballads. We don't really lock ourselves into any sub-genre," Hickman acknowledges.

The need to keep diversifying sounds stems from an antipathy towards the American music scene. Hickman takes the critical side and recognizes a lack of enthusiasm and passion for music.

"In the United States, a little bit is being lost when someone goes to see bands. People are spoon fed. They don't take it upon themselves to seek out the good stuff anymore."

Hickman attributes this disregard for "the good stuff" to the radio festivals prevalent throughout the United States. "[The audience] has been diluted by a lot of these shows, nobody is paying attention anymore. I think something is just lost," Hickman comments, in a melancholy tone.

But a speck of optimism seeps into his dry humour and surmises a promising outlook on a band whose philosophy is to observe and then express their criticisms in kitschy punk/pop rhythms.

"A good band will stay around long enough that a cyclical thing will happen. Everyone finally catches up with them and they find themselves in synch with what's going on and that's happened to us over the last decade."

A & E are already in that giving holiday mood with tickets for all the Cracker lovers out there. Cracker is coming to The Embassy tonight and you and a friend can go. Just come to Rm. 263 in the UCC and say Polly wants a Cracker!

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998