The Music Box: CAKE’s Showroom Of Compassion Rips On Life In General…And MTV’s Jersey Shore?

CAKE's sixth studio release rides a rooster (photo by Chris Rotolo)

Track Listing:

  1. Federal Funding
  2. Long Time
  3. Got To Move
  4. What’s Now Is Now
  5. Mustache Man (Wasted)
  6. Teenage Pregnancy
  7. SIck Of You
  8. Easy To Crash
  9. Bound Away
  10. The Winter
  11. Italian Guy

The Band:

Despite its longevity and plethora of chart topping tracks CAKE remains one of the more overlooked gems to emerge from the experimental realm known as the early ’90s.  For two decades, like Statler and Waldorf, this band has peered down from its Sacramento, California perch of operations acting as a gang of societal watch dogs whose ways with words and sarcasm burn and bite at the lack of common sense and decency the citizens of  this country operate with on a daily basis.

CAKE’s upcoming record, Showroom Of Compassion, is the second studio release on the band’s own label, Upbeat Records, an all green all the time studio powered entirely by a series of solar panels.  It is currently the only studio of its kind.

Release Date: 1/11/11

The Review:

I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this music different, but, for 20-years now CAKE has produced more tunes that end up on film and television soundtracks than any other musical collective around.  Chuck, The Simpons, The Sopranos; Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Shallow Hal, Orange County; as well as Snapple and Apple, these are just a handful of  sources that have tapped John McCrea and company for a musical boost.

On Tuesday CAKE will release its sixth studio collection of made-for-TV numbers and have named it Showroom Of Compassion. This record will mark the first time since CAKE’s 1994 debut, Motorcade Of Generosity, that the band hasn’t recorded with the backing of a major label bank roll, and the lack of production value has aided this gang of snarky societal pundits in recapturing a more raw sound that the band gravitated away from with its last studio release, 2004’s Pressure Chief.

For lack of grammatical skills, CAKE did what CAKE do on SOC. There was no grandiose sonic upheaval or reinvention, just the quintessential jib-jabbing at a flawed existence with poetic word-play spoken, more than sung, in an unimpassioned fashion over drolly distorted guitar riffs, clever Moog accompaniment, and the famed trumpet work of Vince DiFiore.

DiFiore’s complimentary brass play is introduced early on SOC‘s opening salvo, “Federal Funding.”  In an era riddled with economic disaster met with government bailout and more economic conspiracy, it only makes sense for a band with CAKE’s political mindset to pen a song dedicated to the matter.  Who knew such a pleasant Pop number could be written on such a boring subject?

There is one distinct difference between the songs on this record and CAKE’s back catalogue and that is the extensive multi-part harmonizing.  If John McCrea possessed even the tiniest bit of singing ability, and didn’t loathe a lot of the human race, a few of the tracks on Showroom Of Compassion would not be out of place on a Beatles playlist, but that just wouldn’t be CAKE, would it?

Big harmonies can be found in “Long Time,” (a relationship is in tatters and McCrea realizes his partner has given up) “Got To Move,” (an overachiever and progression junkie that races to outdo the competition is nothing more than a lonely coward), and “Bound Away,” the roughest cut on the record, a folky campfire rock tune about the treacheries of lost time while touring and/or traveling in which McCrea croons “There’s low visibility, gusty wind and rain/My carry-on luggage is still on the plain/Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours/Hours give you a lifetime and a grave with pink flowers.”

The album’s single “Sick Of You” is CAKE’s hate filled manifesto about loathing…self-lothing and otherwise.  Back in September when the band graciously granted SPIN the exclusive rights to the track McCrea had this to say to the hipster elite: “It’s about how when you hate things, the circle of hate starts rather broadly.  You hate the President or a big movie star, someone you’ll probably never meet. Gradually though, the circle tightens and the objects of hate get closer and closer to the hater. Now it’s your uncle or your mother, now it’s your close friend, and finally it’s you. Bummer.”

A bummer indeed.  But what would a CAKE record be without a badly needed staring contest with a mirror?  Self reflection is what this music is all about.  These guys aren’t really sniping at our heads from some pompous perch.  They’re confronting us, attempting to make us see the error of our ways…aren’t they?

Rating: 3.75 / 5

Other Key Tracks:

“Italian Guy” – Is it a coincidence that the closing number of an album that’s release date is in the midst of season three of MTV’s Jersey Shore rips on obnoxious Italian-Americans…nah, I don’t think so either.

“Mustache Man (Wasted)” – This track is CAKE at its best and is constructed from the same type of song-book as “Love You Madly.”

About rote7123

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May 2011 with a Bachelor Degree in Journalism and Professional Writing, as well as a degree in Communication Studies. He has held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet's Arts & Entertainment section, and has contributed to The Aquarian Weekly all while being the sole operator of Asbury Park's premier music news outlet Speak Into My Good Eye.
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