Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 2: Cracker, "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)"

Artist: Cracker
Song: "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)"
Album: Cracker
Year: 1992

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There is perhaps no more rare an occurrence in music than the emergence of a song and a sound that truly fit in perfectly in their time.  For the most part, the "great" songs are either a bit ahead or a bit behind the times, yet it is in these few songs that are "right on time" that one can find some of the most amazing and defining music of a generation.  While many would look to the psychedelic rock that came from the late 1960's, a few decades later, a similar situation occurred.  As the 1990's began, there was a strange, almost laid-back rebellion beginning, as with the general quality of living on the rise in the U.S., there was not much to complain about.  Within a few years, the so-called "grunge" movement would be said to have come from nowhere, and yet if one looks closely at the music of the preceding years, the spirit and sound can be easily seen.  Coming from the other side of the country, and mixing together folk and country with hard rock sounds, few bands better define the first half of the 1990's than one will find in the music of Cracker.  Though they are best known for their sophomore effort, the true brilliance of the band can be found in their first single from their debut record.  Capturing the sentiment of the youth at the time, as well as proving that "real" rock did not die during the "hair metal" years, there are few songs in history that have as anthemic a cry as one finds in Cracker's 1992 single, "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)."

The intent of the song is clear from the moment it begins, as the feeling of fast paced movement and the overall honest, straightforward nature is set by the drumming and unmistakable guitar riff.  Rather reminiscent of a Tom Petty guitar progression, Johnny Hickman's lead is the focal point of the entire song, and he performs brilliantly.  Adding a slight touch of distortion, the sound is just dirty enough to make the song "more than average" rock, yet clean enough to attract listeners from across the genres.  The acoustic rhythm behind it from David Lowrey presents a fantastic contrast, and it is in this juxtaposition that one can hear the many influences of Cracker.  Bringing an undeniable hard rock feel, the acoustic guitar and tone of both players gives the song an undeniable "country twang, and one can hear the progression in this style that Lowrey made that he began with his former band, Camper Van Beethoven.  Bassist Davey Faragher adds to this sound and the songs' fantastic sense of movement with his driving bassline, and it the combined sound of the band makes "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" one of the greatest songs to ever be blasted from a fast moving vehicle.  This is further enforced by the fantastic drumming, and the dry sound which resonates becomes a perfect finishing touch to the controlled chaos that is "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)."

Perfectly complimenting the mood and tone set by the music, the vocals from David Lowrey push the energy on "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" to an point where it seems it might explode at any moment.  Making no attempts to hide the few shortcomings in his voice, few vocalists have ever been able to show this much unrestrained passion in their singing, and it is this raw energy that makes "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" retain its impact nearly two decades later.  Lowrey keeps himself in check throughout a majority of the song, but as the final verse begins, he completely lets loose, sending the song into one of the heaviest, wildest endings that represents everything that makes rock and roll great.  It is also within the words he sings that "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" becomes unforgettable, as the lyrics are so universal that they can be passed down through the generations.  Whether he is taking subtle shots at "his parents music" or singing about trying to "get you in bed," the words define what it means to be young, and yet Lowrey also tosses some tongue-in-cheek humility when he sings, "...I don't know what the world may want, but some words of wisdom could comfort us...Think I'll leave that up to someone wiser..."  Proving that one need not scream or be overly dramatic to have impact, David Lowrey's singing on "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" are perfect in every way and it is much the reason the son has become such an anthem.

Serving as one of the most important bridges between the "hair metal" of the 80's and the punk rebirth called grunge of the 1990's, Cracker brought rock music back to its roots, whilst simultaneously injecting it with an energy that had been lost for years.  Ignoring the trends of outrageous solos and self-important, meaningless words, Cracker pulled off the ultimate statement of sarcasm with their single, "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)."  The driving guitar riffs, smashing percussion, and uninhibited vocals all come together in brilliant fashion on the song, and though their follow-up record would gain more notoriety, it is this song that is without question their finest hour.  Approaching the idea of teen angst in a way unlike any other band in history, Cracker is able to make a song about having fun and trying to "get some" without it coming off in the cliché manner which can be found in most songs of this nature.  It is this fact that further separates "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" from other songs, and the straightforward lyrics are easy to pick up, and this aspect adds to the songs' lasting place as an anthem.  In an era when a strange despondency was taking grip on the youth of the U.S., it was songs like this that perfectly captured their mood, and yet it can be just as easily applied and enjoyed in modern times.  From the invigorating music to the spirited vocals, there is simply nothing else in music history that sounds quite like Cracker's unforgettable 1992 single, "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)."

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