Nothing is more painful in the music world than having one of your coveted bands release a new album that comes up short. Unfortunately when it does occur, it can be hard to come to terms with a band’s new identity, when the melodies of yesteryear seemed so sweet. This is the case with Cake’s new album, which was released in January, titled “Showroom Of Compassion.” I have felt that Cake has been descending the stairway of awesomeness for quite a while now, with its last memorable release being “Comfort Eagle” released in 2001. It is my hope that in reviewing this album, someone out there may be able to tune in with a fresh perspective.
The album starts off with a receding dose of what Cake is known well for – witty political commentary wrapped in a gritty musical package, ready for mindful consumption. Playing on the recent woes of the US economy, the song “Federal Funding” pokes well-deserved criticism at the way that money is allotted and spent in the U.S. (GE Tax exemptions anyone?) From there, the band starts to fray away from its core messages, delving into a sound that while “Cake,” is definitely not something I have heard from them before. The departure marks a concerted effort by John McCrea to differentiate the band’s sound from previous albums. Whereas “Pressure Chief” (2004) attempted to bring up the pace of the songs, it seems that “Showroom” attempts the complete opposite, often slowing the tempo of the songs to the point of obscurity.
Notable tracks include “What’s Now is Now,” and “Italian Guy” which is unfortunately the last song on the album. I bring this up not to highlight the album’s deficiency, but to point toward tracks that I was expecting to hear based on previous works. When I received this album, I was hoping for a turn-around, and thus listened to it on “repeat” for about four days, searching for the glamour (well, 40ish plays if you want to get technical). I guess the bottom line is that if you’ve never heard of Cake before, I would highly recommend checking them out, as “Showroom of Compassion” is an excellent contemporary place to start. However, if like me, you grew up thinking that Cake wrote “I Will Survive,” and thought the concept of owning a stick shift with safety belts was a pretty neat idea, one must come to grasp with the fact that it’s not 1996 anymore, and there are other places to go for groundbreaking music in 2011.