Cracker‘s third album, The Golden Age, was uneven, but it also suffered from bad timing: when it was released in the spring of 1996, the bottom had just fallen out of alternative guitar rock, and Cracker was left without the large audience that made their first two albums hits. Realizing this conundrum, and approaching middle age, frontman David Lowery decided to stop trying to score modern rock hits and simply play for Cracker‘s fourth album, Gentleman’s Blues. Picking up musical cues from Kerosene Hat and the quieter moments of The Golden Age, Lowery and his partner, Johnny Hickman, fall back to their beloved ’70s album rock, mixing up blues-rock, hard rock, Southern rock, and Dead-like jams. Apart from Lowery‘s characteristically quirky, absurdist lyrics, Gentleman’s Blues sounds as if it could have been recorded in the early ’70s. It does sound as if they no longer care about being contemporary, but their easy charm and shambling delivery are so appealing, it doesn’t matter if the album is indeed a retreat. Beneath the surface, however, there’s a certain weariness unheard of in earlier Cracker albums. Many of Lowery‘s songs, such as “Seven Days,” have a bitterness that’s barely masked by his irony and songcraft. It may be a shock to discover those sentiments lurking behind these appealing songs, but that’s what makes Gentleman’s Blues worth repeated listens.
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