Funky white geeks who play intelligent, cynical, socially conscious rock with an almost-country sheen and harsh Steely Dan-ish angles - no wonder the name Cake doesn't conjure up a vivid sonic portrait, unless you count the trumpet. But Cake traffic in easygoing deception, hiding articulate observation under a load of goofball touches - covers that should be kitschy but aren't ("Sad Songs and Waltzes," "I Will Survive"), friendly melodies, novelty lyrics and spazzy arrangements. On their fourth album, Cake's formula is tighter than ever - the kickoff number features singer John McCrea's unremarkable voice floating indolently over a broken-down funk beat, with minuscule breaks for Vincent DiFiore's trumpet, some blaxploitation wah-wah and the opening line: "I am an opera singer." Eras jostle and jumble; the Eighties get play on the robo-disco single "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and on the title song, a sort of industrial party tune. "Shadow Stabbing" is mellow soft rock, while the wonderfully thrumming "Commissioning a Symphony in C" is vintage smartass low-fi, circa 1994. The best songs, particularly "Long Line of Cars" and "Pretty Pink Ribbon," exhibit a modern pop that is both mechanized and organic. Whatever McCrea is getting at, his sound, like the band itself, is highly developed and virtually unique.
(RS 875 - August 16, 2001)
(Posted: Jul 24, 2001)