David Lowery’s old band, the super-eclectic Camper Van Beethoven, was known for playing everything from Polish mazurkas to acid rock. His new band, Cracker, is a much simpler trio whose music harks back to groups like Little Feat, The Band, and the Exile-era Rolling Stones, though with a slightly sharper edge. On Cracker, songs like ”Happy Birthday to Me” and ”Satisfy You” are straightforward and incisive country-flavored rock numbers made piercingly relevant by Lowery’s mean harmonica and wry, cynical wit. He’s a truly great songwriter, able to combine humor, bitterness, and penetrating insight into one tuneful package. Sure, it’s easy to laugh at lines like ”What the world needs now/Is another folk singer/ Like I need a hole in my head,” from the wonderfully acerbic ”Teen Angst.” Or ”I see the light at the end of the tunnel/Someone please tell me it’s not a train,” from ”I See the Light.” But it’s even easier to agree unreservedly. Judging from Lowery’s take on mainstream America, it’s nice to know that crackers have soul too. A

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