Photo: Robert McKnight

Showroom of Compassion
By Budd A. Robertson As Cake aficionados and other interested collectors eagerly anticipated the January 11, 2011 release of SHOWROOM OF COMPASSION, the band’s first studio recording since 2004’s PRESSURE CHIEF, it was wondered if the band would adhere to its historically unique indy/alt pop sound or break new barriers after such a long time dormant. Indeed, Cake frontman, John McCrea caused a bit of stir in the Cake Head community when he commented that “this record would sound very different.” But rejoice Cakesters, this is a triumphantly wonderful set that is true to Cake’s roots while adding a bit of a twist and turn. All the slices are intact: McCrea’s “listen if you care” talkwww.cakemusic.com

Cake:

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singing, crisp horns, stark determined drums, oh so s w e e t g u i t a r, t h i g h slapping bass, constant back ground fun and wee little song/stories that allow the listener to run with them. Cake has never tried to force feed its artsy angst on the listener. The joy of Cake is not trying too hard to “get it” or over analyze or characterize. The band takes pride in its collaborative nature and dug deep into that mindset on SHOWROOM. It shows. Cake gives you art to listen to, and this effort is a true pleasure. Whether one chooses to lie on the couch watching the snow fall or get the house cleaning done, SHOWROOM will get your foot tapping while doing so. The band recorded SHOWROOM in a solar power studio in Sacramento, California and took their sweet time. The studio ambiance and band’s patience over the near three year effort is obvious. The arrangements are crisp, smart and not overdone. The opening track, “ Fe d e ra l F u n d i n g ,” a d d r e s s e s government handouts with eminently danceable fun. “Long

Photo: Robert McKnight

Time” laments an on and off relationship in a catchy dirge-like style with some popping horns: “It’s been a long time, since we drove your P-o-o-o-o-ntiac” and ultimately, “It’s been a long time, since we drank the ah-ah-ah-ah-ah -arsenic.” “Got to Move” is a melodic song poem which brings to mind frustrating friends or lovers who drive you crazy because they

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are always so demon-driven trying to reinvent themselves, have little time for you, and ultimately go nowhere. The oblique yet catchy, “Mustache Man,” laments being wasted and wasting time. The dark instrumental, “Teenage Pregnancy,” aligns near classical piano, fuzzy guitar, synthesized keyboard and mariachi horns into quite an interesting piece. The album’s single, “Sick Of You,” which the band ripped through on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on January 13, 2011, is just a great pop song. McCrea scores the subtle point that being sick of others, job etc. is really being sick of one’s self. The catchy tune will be a great sing-along for Cake fans in upcoming live shows. The songs continue to please w i t h t h e r o c ke r “ E a s y t o Crash,” which confronts the Cali-cushy lifestyle while lazily loping along until morphing into a painfully too short Zappa-esque, red hot instrumental break. Cake’s joy of slipping in a country ballad is met well with “Bound Away” — obviously thoughts collected while touring. The surprising, “Winter,” is a whimsical tribute to entering the cold holiday season with a lost love on

one’s mind. McCrea rues, “And Jingle Bells are smothered in this gloom.” SHOWROOM wraps with the light hearted “Italian Guy.” Just a sidewalk observation turned into a pop song by a band having fun in a solar powered studio with pleasing themselves a top priority. And it works. Sadly, SHOWROOM OF COMPASSION will not likely ignite the sniffy critics or bring the band much attention outside of their already loyal following. It should. But, time may well demonstrate that this is one of the more important releases of 2011 and it’s a must have for any diverse collector with a good ear for smart music. It’s a joy from start to finish and digs deeper with every play.

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