Frontier Psychiatrist

A Sixth Helping of Cake – Review of Showroom of Compassion

Posted on: January 27, 2011

Cake, Showroom of Compassion

Showroom of Compassion (Upbeat Records) is the first new Cake release in seven years. Best known for their 90s break out hit “The Distance” and 2001 chart topper “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, they continue to deliver more of their signature head nodding grooves and funny lyrics.

In his signature off-beat and snarky manner, vibra-slap master and Cake boss John McCrea promised that this record would sound much different than previous efforts. How? “More piano and more reverb.” Indeed the production displays new sonic depth when compared to earlier tracks. Produced in Cake’s own Sacramento studio, the care and effort are apparent in the lush mixes and broad palettes. But the Cake essentials are still there. The solo trumpet work of Vince DiFiore weaves in and out of the arrangements. The solid and imaginative bass grooves of Gabe Nelson anchor the syncopated lyrical forms of McCrea. The shout-out call and response choruses takes us right back to those mid-90s college parties.

Those are the similarities. The differences are more subtle. Cake has made a living baking songs with plenty of irony and smirk. Remember their cover of  “I Will Survive?” Here we have a more earnest and sincere band mellowing out as they approach middle age. Even though we get some of that proto-hipster shoulder shrugging (“I’m so sick of me, so sick of you, so sick of me”) the tone of the work certainly references the “compassion” in the album title. Beyond lyrical tone, the song writing has some tasty twists and turns while still managing early 90s alt-rock joie de vivre.

Cake, Federal Funding

“Federal Funding” is a nice little poke at recent economic events. It also features a vocal drenched in reverb, a production technique that McCrea has shied away from in the past. Like most of the songs here it features the Cake essentials while delivering a mid-tempo head-bob inducing groove.

Cake, Teenage Pregnancy

“Teenage Pregnancy” is a rare instrumental. It will remind you of “Moonlight Sonata” but only briefly. The trepidation and sadness evoked here work nicely with the more sensitive emotional slant to the record, and demonstrate that Cake can communicate effectively even without McCrea’s vocal work.

Cake, Sick of You

“Sick of You” represents the radio shot for this record. Clocking it at just 3:14, it features the shout-out chorus that made “The Distance” so distinctly different in its day. And just like that hit, the middle of the song features a rapping McCrea propelling us to the end of the tune. Ultimately, Compassion demonstrates that Cake knows not to change the delicious recipes that have been so successful over the last twenty years.


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