Wait, I just wrote that a few days ago to talk about Gogol Bordello's newer, more mature sound on their last album. The same idea, though, is in my mind about Cake's latest release, Showroom of Compassion. It's been almost 7 years since Cake has released a new album of material (not counting 2007's B-Sides and Rarities) and expectations have been high. Most Cake fans want the elements they've come to love: heavy guitar riffs, funky bass lines, subtle horn framing, and the snarky, clever lyrics.
John McCrea talked about Showroom's sound as "very different", but the band has firmly locked in on what their fans want and delivered just that. The lead off track, Federal Funding, could have come off 2004's Pressure Chief or any of their other albums. The ironic, deadpan lyrics offer themselves as thinly veiled social commentary. The laid back beat and steady guitar riff are comfortable elements from earlier songs. One interesting twist here that comes up on a few other songs is the Robyn Hitchcock vibe.
The most interesting track is the instrumental piece, Teenage Pregnancy. The Moonlight Sonata influenced piano intro adds a poignancy before the grind of rock guitar walks through it. It's an interesting interlude that sounds like an alt rock band covering Paul Williams. Without McCrea's dominating vocals, the rest of the band gets to show off some of their tricks that often go unnoticed.
My other favorite moment is the segue from the country rock of Bound Away into the stark opening for the pop psychedelic groove of The Winter. The last word of Bound Away fades and the steel and keyboards swell a little into the silence. Then the vocal/piano start of The Winter takes over.
A winter's chill chilled me to the bone this yearThat transition and the echo of the word "away" create a relationship between the songs in a subtle way.
And something in my mind just got away
Even if there's no break from the past, Showroom of Compassion provides another chance to enjoy what Cake does well. It's got the ironic distance and the great musicianship that I've always loved from Cake. Give the Rolling Stones' style single, Sick of You, a listen. If I were a hipster, I'd raise my PBR.