CD reviews: Cracker, Jonny Greenwood, Ghostface Killah
Berkeley to Bakersfield
Formed in 1990 after the demise of songwriter David Lowery’s sister band, college radio faves Camper Van Beethoven, the eclectic Cracker have often flown well below the mainstream radar despite a career of indie riffs and catchy choruses.
This album, the band’s 10th studio effort, is split into two distinct camps. Liberal Berkeley and conservative Bakersfield are cities of Cracker’s home state California, separated by a five-hour drive and a world of politics. Each disc of this double album is played by a different configuration of musicians and reflects the two cities’ distinctive vibes. The Berkeley disc, which sees the band’s original line-up back together after a more than 20-year hiatus, unsurprisingly leans more towards Cracker’s more familiar East Bay garage rock.
Songs such as the swaggering March of the Billionaires and Beautiful are short and gloriously sweet riff-filled tunes. Bakersfield sees Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman joined by some country rock musicians and takes the pedal steel path towards twangy rootsy blue-collar Americana. Both discs deserve repeated listening.
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
While the entire world gets excited by the news that English alt-rock overlords Radiohead have returned to the recording studio to begin work on their ninth album, lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood treats us to his sixth movie score.
Soundtracking Inherent Vice, the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, this is the third time Greenwood has worked with the director (previously There Will Be Blood and The Master). Recorded in London with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra, Greenwood's original melodic string and wind compositions are complemented by tracks from the late 1960s by Neil Young, Can and Minnie Ripperton. Of course it's Greenwood's contribution that will bring the most attention to this album. Under the Paving-Stones, The Beach!, features his brother and fellow band member Colin, while Spooks, a mostly instrumental surf rock song that the band have been playing live since 2006, is here rewritten by Greenwood and performed by two thirds of cheeky monkey Brit poppers Supergrass. Nice effort Jonny - now back quick smart to play with your friends.
After the recent much-publicised creative rifts within hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan, it was hardly surprising their latest album A Better Tomorrow was underwhelming.
Over the past two decades since the Clan burst onto the rap scene, there's been a constant string of solo releases from the family, some fantastic and plenty average, with rapper Ghostface Killah establishing himself as one of the group's most consistent members for quality and quantity. 36 Seasons sees Ghostface return to a narrative-based theme as heard on his previous album Twelve Reasons to Die.
This collaborative effort with soul band The Revelations, with a storyline from comic book artist Matthew Rosenberg, is based on Ghostface's street kingpin alter-ego Tony Starks; exiled from Staten Island for nine years (or 36 seasons), Starks returns only to be betrayed and killed, before coming back from the dead to seek retribution.
Unfortunately the storybook formula, peppered with vintage soul and funk interludes around some of Ghostface's less intense rapping, fails to evoke any drama. Not one of his best.