Album Review (2 of 52): Cake - "Showroom of Compassion"

Going to be a short review this time because I'm writing it on my iPad while sitting on a plane.

My purpose in doing these review is threefold:

  1. to share great music with as many people as possible
  2. to get some writing done in a disciplined way
  3. to force myself to explore musically

On Tuesday, Cake released a new album "Showroom of Compassion." This review, falls squarely into the "force myself to explore" category of why I'm reviewing it. Although I've always enjoyed Cake's singles, I don't think I've ever listened to one of their complete albums before. In fact, before I was re-introduced to "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" in the middle of last year, they were completely off my radar. ("Short Skirt/Long Jacket" by the way is a great song that as far as I can tell was written about my wife.)

One thing you can say about this album is that it is consistently Cake. There are a lot of groups out there that you can tell who it is without knowing the song. This is not necessarily a bad thing. U2, Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan and many other greats have an easily identifiable sound. However, at some point, the line between "they have an easily identifiable sound" and "all their songs sound the same" starts to blur. I don't think this album crosses the line, but the fact that I even considered it tells you something.

The first single off this album is "Sick of You". It seems like it was released several months ago (can't look it up on the plane) and at this point it almost feels like an oldie to me. I think that because of the familiarity of the sound, I liked it pretty much from the first time I heard it on the radio. It's sort of an At the same time, there's plenty of fun and thought-provoking stuff on this album. It's not as quirky as They Might Be Giants, but there are some interesting song choices on here.

A great example of the quirky nature of their album construction is For example, the opening song "Federal Funding" is an odd choice to kick off an album. It's a song about federal grants. Now as someone who's spent the last 6 months actually involved in writing state and federal grants, I can personally testify to the fact that it's a torturous process. The music and repetition in the song lead to a conclusion that it's a repetitive and tedious process... OK, I'll give you that but I'm not sure what it all means or why I'd lead off an album with it.

The second song "Long Time" is a great song. Actually, it's my favorite song on the album. But it's not exactly cheery:

It's been a long time
Since I've seen your smiling face
It's been a long time
Since I've seen a sunny day

"Sick of You" is the song that's currently getting all the attention. Here's the video:

It's another fairly depressing song about ennui. It would say "teenage ennui", but these guys are a little old for the teenage part (pot calling the kettle black warning). I actually feel sorry for people who get bored and sick of things so easily, but I can still dredge up some of those old feelings every once in a while to appreciate songs like this. But doing so always makes me feel lucky to be albe to back up from it and appreciate the simple great things about life.

So where does this all come from. I thought this video by John McCrea and the rest of the band was pretty interesting.

Finally, another thing to love about this band is that they have recently converted their studio to run on solar power. Full disclosure, my day job is developing solar power with Tipping Point Renewable Energy. So I think this is a great idea.