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Retro Review: Hootie & the Blowfish — Cracked Rear View

Keith Higgons

Posted on August 9, 2019 10:55

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South Carolina quartet celebrates 25 years since the release of their debut album. 25 years!

Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View is a quarter-century old. 

I was skeptical when Hootie emerged on the scene. It took some cajoling for me to listen to the album. Once I saw that it was produced by Don Gehman (he produced John Mellencamp’s biggest - arguably his best - albums, American Fool, Uh-Huh, Scarecrow), my guard came down.

The album opens innocuously enough with “Hannah Jane”. Hardly a song to set the world on fire, but not awful. However, track two is “Hold My Hand” which begins benignly enough but then grows quickly into an anthem. And anthem it has become.

The next three songs, “Hold My Hand”, “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be With You” are not just 14:00 of sublime power pop, it’s also album sequencing brilliance. After the first five songs, you’re either in or you’re out. 

As of May 2018, 21 million people were in. Cracked Rear View is the 19th best selling album of all time. 

Seeing a black guy like Darius Rucker front a rock band wasn’t that unusual. It just wasn’t common. That said, conspicuously absent from the record is any mention of race. Almost. It’s track 7, “Drowning”, when the band unleashes the angriest song, musically and lyrically, on Cracked Rear View. I’d love to be able to say that 25 years on the lyrics wouldn’t be as powerful. I can't say that:

Why must we hate one another
When the people in the church
They tell me you’re my brother
You don’t walk like me, I said that
You don’t talk like me, saying
Go back to Africa
I just don’t understand

Today Rucker’s voice is as distinctive and recognizable as any voice. It wasn’t in 1994. Back then, his voice was the antithesis of, and antidote to, the anger of Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor and Courtney Love. 

The album chugs along and flows as fluidly as water going downstream. “Time” follows “Drowning” and thematically it makes sense. Its taught sound and lyrics left me gleefully tapping on my steering wheel and singing along more times than I can remember. Cracked Rear View doesn’t disappoint. 

The last three, “Not Even the Trees”, “Goodbye” and “Motherless Child”, demonstrate that the album's best songs are before them. Which is not to say these songs are bad. These songs serve as a nice ballast for the preceding songs.

Certainly, by the middle of 1995, I wanted to strangle anyone who would play Hootie & the Blowfish. I still liked the album, but for a period of time, you just couldn’t escape the songs. It was too much. 

So, how does Cracked Rear View sound 25 years on? Look, there isn’t anything terribly new or original about Cracked Rear View. But that isn’t a crime. There’s nothing new about beat-up jeans or Chuck Taylor’s either. Some things just work. Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View works.

It isn’t only a staple for Generation X, it’s also a damn fine album. Still.

Keith Higgons

Posted on August 9, 2019 10:55

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Source: WRAL

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