The 73 minutes of music on Cracker’s new double album would fit comfortably on a single disc, but “Berkeley to Bakersfield” is an intentional act of musical centrifuge that separates the band’s rock and country elements into separate containers. The first, “Berkeley,” mates various shades of guitar rock (and, on lead-off track “Torches and Pitchforks,” a bit of coffeehouse folk) to recurring moments of economic populism and songs replete with references to that titular city. The “Bakersfield” disc trades guitar crunch for pedal steel whine, serving up straight shuffles, rowdy country-rock, and mournful balladry as it shifts its lyrical focus southward. Wherever they’re situated, though, the songs still find plenty of room for vintage Cracker scabrous wit and commentary (“if you want a view of the Golden Gate, go marry a banker while you still look good”) alongside celebrations that encompass both an urban mohawked punk rocker who’s grown up to be a boho coffeeshop owner (“Beautiful”) and a libertarian “red-state union man” who’s known as “the king of Bakersfield.” (Out now)
ESSENTIAL “Beautiful,” “King of Bakersfield”
Stuart Munro can be reached at email@example.com.