Monday, January 08, 2007

People you hate will get their hooks into you

There seem to be three schools of thought on the evolution of Cake (the band, not the food). One seems to think that the band has reached a state of stylistic stagnation, and that all of their most work is jarringly similar to that of their early albums. The second thinks that Cake is enjoyable, and while they aren't doing anything new or revolutionary, they are some of the finest fun-music makers working today. The third doesn't know who Cake is.

I fall into the second group, although I'd even argue that the band has clearly branched out a bit from its breakthrough hits Motorcade of Generosity and Fashion Nugget. There's very little on the market that matches the sheer energy of Cake. Almost every song they've released has been instantly singable, hummable, clappable, and danceable. The band is as fun as the music--for instance, watching lead singer John McCrea performing various percussion instrumentation with a look of joy on his face is something to behold.

Their most recent piece was 2006's Pressure Chief. As many critics point out, it is more of the same in many ways. It's still the bouncy California pop that Cake fans have come to know and love. However, there are several notable variations to the Cake repertoire. This album incorporates electronic instruments and noises to great effect, and it's a production technique that would be hard to find on their previous releases. This occurs throughout the album, but is probably used to best effect in "Take It All Away" and "Palm of Your Hand."

As with most albums by most artists, there are a number of lesser tracks on there. "Carbon Monoxide" may be the most peppy and fun song on the album, but it seems a bit out of place. Cake's cover of Bread's "The Guitar Man" is interesting, but just sort of sits there in the middle of the album. "Waiting" isn't bad, but it reminds me of "Bread and Butter" by The Newbeats for reasons that I'm sure we'll never know.

My favorite track on the disc by far is "End of the Movie," which seems to be the complete antithesis of Cake. The instrumentation is light. It's essentially an acoustic guitar, a fiddle, and McCrae's earnest voice. Coupled with it are some of Cake's best, wryest lyrics (not that Cake is known for its poetry, know...). "People you love will turn their backs on you. You'll lose your hair. Your teeth. Your knife will fall out of its sheath. But you still don't like to leave before the end of the movie." The song also utilizes another of my favorite musical techniques--the false ending. Wonderful.

Other stand-outs are "Wheels," "Palm of Your Hand," and "Tougher Than It Is." Any one of these three songs would be a great choice to introduce the band to an uninitiated friend, as they're optimistic and easy-to-dance-to tracks that incorporate the trademark horns and twanging electric guitar so often associated with Cake. It may not be the best Cake album--an honor which goes to either Fashion Nugget or Comfort Eagle--but it's certainly a fun and easy listen. Pop it in your car stereo on your next drive and you'll be singing in no time.

Cake: End of the Movie
Cake: Palm of Your Hand


Silliker said...

Hmm. At first I thought i fell somewhere in the 2nd or 1st column. Thinking- "Obviously I've heard of Cake, thats the band with the bald pianist." Turns out I was thinking of Ben Folds, mistakenly confusing him yet further with joe jackson and then elton john. Just as I confuse the dude from moby with the smashing pumpkins guy before finally realizing he was in REM.

Turns out ben folds isn't just a him. It also turns out that Cake has nothing to do with this.

Okay. So Cake, IIRC, is that band who performed hits which include lyrics like: "she's writing, shes writing, shes a writing a letter", "bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse", as well as covers of old disco songs.
Haven't heard any new stuff so I cant comment further.

I do have a bone to pick with your mel gibson.


Cant he get one "historical" movie right? AZTEC'S!
Mayans mysteriously disappeared some several hundred years before the spaniards arrived (I realize the passe word, and I like it. In fact I'll raise you. Mulatto)

You'll be boot-scooting around campus before you know it.


Spoodles said...

To be fair, it never actually says "Mayan" in the film. It's possible that Gibson knew he was making it about the Aztecs (or just an ancient Central American culture), but the marketing machine just screwed it up.

Cake is fluff, but it's decent fluff.

You're right about Moby, Michael Stipe, and Billy Corgan. They need to grow some hair so we can tell them apart.

Silliker said...

"To be fair, it never actually says "Mayan" in the film. It's possible that Gibson knew he was making it about the Aztecs (or just an ancient Central American culture), but the marketing machine just screwed it up."

hmmm.... perhaps.

I took the liberty of perusing the offical movie page

If you click "menu" it brings up a flash of mayan history. Correctly it notes that the Mayans disappeared 1000 yrs ago. Nothing about Aztecs.

I doubt if mel gibson knows the difference. He probably called them mayans and his distributors (all historically astute) ran with it, perhaps prematurely blowing their proverbial load on posters and the like.
Eventually someone stumbled across the "facts", causing contradicting info. I guess they let both exist side by side. Oh well.

btw my verification word is "smenita"

I just did, twice. Then listened to fashion nugget.