Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Cake – Showroom of Compassion
Upbeat Records: 2010

The first Cake album was released in 1994. I was an 8-year-old brat. O.J. Simpson was all over the news. Kurt Cobain put his mouth around a shotgun barrel and the Internet was just growing in public interest. Much has changed. Cake—not so much, aside from a few members. They found a perfect balance between funk virtuosity and catatonic vocals during the early 90s. Like a flatlined James Brown on a hospital bed—still dancing, somehow. They haven’t strayed much beyond that formula.

Cake’s new album, Showroom of Compassion will not disappoint old Cake fans. It’s familiar enough to enthuse veteran listeners, yet distinct enough to attract a whole range of new fans. “Easy to Crash” sets the time with allusions toward the circus that is our economy. It opens with the line, “Clouds hung hugely and oppressively.” So you know it’s bad when even the clouds are oppressive. “Bound Away” lays down lap slide guitar, some Texas twang and waltz-esque vocal patters. It would sound great on a country themed album, but here it’s more out of place, than commonplace. “Italian Guy” is a song that should have been cut from the album. It hangs on as the closing track like scab.

Cake continues their political mantra, opening with the line, “You’ll receive the federal funding, you can add another wing.” It’s money talk which, like most Cake lyrics, is only slightly comprehensible (Cake lyrics remind me of Jack Kerouac—beatnik ramblings that are amusing to the ear, but less enjoyable when you try to decode them).

The economic caricature returns on “Easy to Crash” with a little more comprehension. So we get it. This album is in the same bad mood everyone else is stuck feeling–shitty. And just when I thought one of my favorite lesser-known, 90s pop bands could pick me up. In fact, the album as a whole is full of bad vibes, but you can’t judge an album for feeling blue. There’s just not much vibrancy to take these vibes across the goal line.  The catchy verses, perfected bass lines and crisp mixing can’t keep me interested without some intense form of emotional dissonance. And every time that trumpet chimes is, I feel like kid again, and I could care less about the economy.

If you like Cake or enjoyed the 90s, then you’ll like Showroom of Compassion. It’s full of catchy tracks, one or two you might even hear on your local alternative radio station. They still pump out hits and there’s no sign that this is there last hurrah. But no matter what album cake puts out, they’ll always go down in my books as some of the best white-boy bass lines since Wild Cherry.

★★½☆☆
2.5 out of 5

6 thoughts on “Cake – Showroom of Compassion

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  1. I wasn’t sure what to make of this review. It seems to focus on an analysis of the lyrical content, noting a lack of exactitude in the lyrics as they deal with presumably topics (political) requiring precision.

    However, I would argue this critique of Cake’s lyrical content is misplaced in that it presumes that lyrics of popular music are necessarily a venue of serious political debate of which Cake’s lyrics do not live up the presumed standard. Certainly some artists do make powerful political statements in lyrics, Neil Young as an example, however, this is not indicative popular music medium, nor would I dare hold Young’s work up as equal to Bob Woodward or Matt Taibbi.

    What I mean, is that I don’t think it’s clear Cake is at fault for not providing precise language in their political explorations because nothing about the context from which they are making their lyrical statements says the audience should take their lyrics any more seriously than the lyrics take themselves.

    What I do get from the review is that the author found the lyrics insufficient for him in how they deal with political matters. But this raises the question of why does the author go to popular music for serious political analysis and exploration and not to news papers, academic essays, and books on the subject?

  2. I grew up in Sacramento, John McCrea shopped at the grocery store I used to work at. Cake and the Deftones get HELLLLA love in Sac. I used to go to Reno with my friends to gamble, the roulette tables there are a cruel mistress.

  3. I was not aware they were based in Sactown, which is funny, because I live only a few hours away–in Reno.

  4. Sactown stand up! Fashion Nugget was one of the first albums I ever bought, good to hear it will still appeal to old Cake heads. Great writeup Erik!

  5. David Reyneke|

    I did no care much for this album. Great review!

  6. Brandon Rae|

    Here here… spot-on review, Erik…

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