Nomenclature alone tells you that David Lowery was looking for the simpler things in rock 'n' roll life when he quit being a Camper and turned into a Cracker.
Lowery emerged in 1985 as the singer in Camper Van Beethoven, an ironic, absurdly contradictory name that went with the band's wise-guy wit and its penchant for tossing seemingly contradictory musical ingredients into the same salad. A little ska, some polka beats, a touch of Balkan folk music, a hint of Middle Eastern mystery, a heap of '60s psychedelic rock--all of these formed the Camper Van Beethoven sound and made the band from Santa Cruz a leader of the alternative rock movement in the late-'80s.
After Camper's breakup, he formed Cracker with two old friends, guitarist Johnny Hickman and bassist Davey Faragher (the band also includes touring drummer Michael Urbano), and opted for a more direct style of rock. The band's name is a Southernism for "good ol' boy" (if you want to be polite about it) or "white trash" (if you don't); the band's sound substitutes dusty, greasy and boozy Southern-roots simplicity for Camper Van Beethoven's assortment of the exotic.
With Camper Van Beethoven, Lowery was party to such record titles as "Telephone Free Landslide Victory," "Vampire Can Mating Oven" and "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart." The title of Cracker's debut album, released last spring, was just plain "Cracker." If fans of Lowery's old band expected to find complex, eclectic fare inside, the album cover, depicting an open tin of sardines, suggested they were mistaken.
What Lowery does retain from his Camper days is a penchant for using his jaundiced wit to poke fun at musical trends. Where Camper established itself with "Take the Skinheads Bowling," a satiric ditty that skewered a faction of punk-rockers, Cracker came out swinging with similar cutting humor in "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)," in which Lowery sneered, "What the world needs now is another folk singer, like I need a hole in the head."
His sandpapery-but-nasal voice is well-suited to wise-crackering, but it also can turn plaintive and pleading. The album tracks "Someday" and "Satisfy You" find Lowery admitting his own inadequacies instead of skewering those of others, indicating that he's still got some Grown Up Angst to work through.
* Who: Cracker.
* When: Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m.
* Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.
* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (5) Freeway to the San Juan Creek Road exit and turn left onto Camino Capistrano. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Plaza.
* Wherewithal: $10.
* Where to call: (714) 496-8930.
IN ANAHEIM: FREDDIE JACKSON, MELI'SA MORGAN
There should be plenty of romantic ardor on display at the Celebrity Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 27, when veteran pop-R&B performers Freddie Jackson and Meli'sa Morgan team up for a double bill of boudoir balladry. Also on the program: Najee, the mellow saxophone stylist. (714) 999-9536.
IN SANTA ANA: THE CADILLAC TRAMPS
A study in contrasts on Saturday, Dec. 26, when O.C.'s posh new Rhythm Cafe hosts the Cadillac Tramps, local favorites whose punk 'n' blues offer a raw, street-level sensibility. Also on the show (the cafe's first local rock bill): the Ballistics, Big Gulp and the Grabbers. (714) 556-2233.
IN NEWPORT BEACH: DADDY FREDDY
Hailing from Jamaica, now based in London, Daddy Freddy actually earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's fastest rapper. He'll be at the Warehouse Saturday, Dec. 26. Innasense, a reggae band from Miami, will be opening the show. (714) 673-4700.