Last year Cracker took a break from releasing new material to compile Garage D’Or (Virgin), a two-CD set featuring the so-called hits on one disc and rarities, outtakes, and the like on the other. If that release proved anything, it was that after four albums in close to twice as many years, David Lowery’s post–Camper Van Beethoven outfit had just enough good material to fill one disc — without a song to spare.
Forever isn’t much of a departure for Cracker in that or in any other sense. Big, ringing, rootsy guitars, foot-stomping sing-along choruses, and a nice helping of post-grad stoner intellectualism are still the order of the day for this band of survivors. And for every track that satisfies, there are at least a couple of clunkers, just as on the four previous CDs. The disc begins with the moody and overly textured "Brides of Neptune"; it’s not until the third track, the wry "Don’t Bring Us Down," that the action picks up. The string introduction that gives way to the blasting guitars of "You Should Be Guarded by Moneys" works well, and the twisted reference to "drinking cheap wine and popping pills" on the amusing holiday ditty "Merry Christmas, Emily" is vintage Cracker. It’s when the band venture too far from their roots that things get dicy. "Shameless" is a harmless if ineffective stab at Southern soul, and "What You’re Missing" is an unnecessary faux rap novelty. "One Fine Day," on the other hand, is the kind of stick-to-your-ribs brawny rocker that Virgin might find suitable for a follow-up to Garage D’Or in 2011.